U.S. shoppers spent slightly less money at brick-and-mortar stores on and than across the same two days in 2013, while online sales surged to record highs, data showed on .
Sales at retail stores totaled about $12.29 billion on Thursday and Friday, down 0.5 percent from the $12.35 billion spent last year, according to estimates by ShopperTrak. The research firm stuck by its forecast for November and December sales to increase 3.8 percent.
The data highlights the waning importance of Black Friday, which until a few years ago kicked off the holiday shopping season, as more retailers open their doors on and start discounting earlier in the month.
It also points to the intense price competition among retailers, which have been discounting by 40 to 70 percent this year compared with 30 to 50 percent in the recent past, ShopperTrak founder Bill Martin told Reuters.
"I think what we are seeing is those early promotions coupled with some pretty deep discounts," he said. Martin said he had expected a 0.5 to 1 percent sales gain.
Customer traffic rose 27.3 percent on Thanksgiving Day from a year earlier, reflecting the sharp increase in retailers opening for business on that day. Traffic fell 5.6 percent on Black Friday, ShopperTrak said.
Martin cautioned against taking the two days' figures as sign of slack holiday demand. He noted that Thanksgiving and Black Friday combined for just 1 percent growth last year, underperforming growth of 3.1 percent during the entire season spanning the months of November and December.
Reflecting the decreased significance of Black Friday, ShopperTrak expects "Super Saturday" on Dec. 20 to rank as the busiest shopping day this year and says seven of the top 10 sales days of the season are still to come.
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