By Christy Strawser
CBS Detroit Managing Editor
Although 200,000 people signed a petition asking Target to stay closed on Thanksgiving so employees could spend time with family, thousands of Americans underscored the benefits of an early opening for retailers — by shopping.
Tracking firm comscore.com found that 2011 Black Friday sales jumped 26 percent over last year, at least partially due to Thanksgiving night opening times at major retailers including Target, Macy’s, Walmart and Kohl’s. Locally, Tanger Outlets in West Branch and Howell, and Great Lakes Crossing in Auburn Hills opened at 9 p.m. on Thanksgiving for Black Friday sales.
By all accounts, it was a raging success.
“We don’t have the numbers in yet, but both the customers and the stores responded postively to the earlier opening — the response was terrific,” said Melissa Morang, marketing and sponsorship director at Great Lakes Crossing. “It was possibly the biggest Black Friday turnout we’ve experienced yet.”
So, after the sales success of this year, is the early start time here to stay?
Nationally, the Mall of America broke a Black Friday record after opening for the first time at midnight on Thanksgivinig. Mall spokeswoman Bridget Jewell said 210,000 visitors came through the doors Friday, breaking the Bloomington mall’s Black Friday record of 200,000 shoppers set last year.
The Mall of America wasn’t alone: According to a survey released Sunday by the National Retail Federation, an unprecedented 226 million shoppers visited stores and websites since Thursday, up from 212 million last year.
Total Black Friday spending nationwide reached an estimated $52.4 billion this year, up from $45 billion last year.
And nearly 25 percent of those shoppers were at the stores before or at midnight. Last year’s midnight shoppers totaled 9.5 percent, a jump from 3.3 percent in 2009.
The retail federation said Black Friday shopping traditionally represents 10 percent of the total holiday buying season, which runs through Christmas.
If the numbers are an indication, midnight openings are here to stay.
“The appetite for these early openings is only getting stronger among holiday shoppers,” BIGresearch Executive Vice President Phil Rist said in a statement. “And retailers did a great job providing Americans just what they wanted this weekend: the ability to shop on Black Friday without having to get out of bed before dawn.”
But people weren’t just pushing away from the Thanksgiving table to visit bricks and mortar stores. They were also shopping online, according to comscore.com, an Internet research firm.
Online retail sales in the United States on Black Friday jumped 26 percent this year, comscore released in a statement. Black Friday online sales reached $816 million, making it the heaviest spending day on the Internet so far in 2011, according to comScore.
Fifty million Americans visited online retail sites on Black Friday, representing an increase of 35 percent over a year ago, comScore data showed.
Last year, Cyber Monday sales topped $1 billion, making it the heaviest day of online spending in history, according to comScore.
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