Crowds Grow But Sales Dip on Black Friday, Report Says

Malls and big-box stores across the nation had more shoppers visiting on Black Friday than the previous year, but sales decreased thanks perhaps to retailers starting the holiday shopping season on Thanksgiving night, says a report.

More than 307.67 million store visits on Black Friday, which is 3.5 percent higher than last year, says a report by ShopperTrak, which measures and analyzes foot traffic at over 50,000 retail locations across the country.

But retail sales amounted to $11.2 billion, 1.8 percent lower than the last year, the report adds.

"Black Friday continues to be an important day in retail," ShopperTrak founder Bill Martin said in a statement Saturday. "This year, though, more retailers than last year began their 'doorbuster' deals on Thursday, Thanksgiving itself. So while foot traffic did increase on Friday, those Thursday deals attracted some of the spending that's usually meant for Friday."

Black Friday shopping continues to expand into Thanksgiving Day and will impact the way we look at all of the "Black" weekend results, since more shopping hours allows for more shopping visits and a smoothing of sales across all of the days, Martin added.

Black Friday, the day following Thanksgiving Day, kicks off the Christmas shopping season.

"By opening even earlier, the retailers have been able to attract a broader spectrum of consumers to participate in Black Friday – not everyone is willing to wake up at 4 a.m.," CNN Money quoted Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst at the NPD Group, as saying. "They definitely got a lot more business early and upfront."

Compared to 2011, foot traffic increased 12.9 percent in the Midwest, 7.6 percent in the Northeast – which was hit by Superstorm Sandy last month, and 8.7 percent in the South. However, foot traffic decreased 11.3 percent.

Last year, Black Friday foot traffic increased over 2010 by 4.7 percent. In 2011, consumers spent $11.4 billion on Black Friday, up from $10.69 billion in 2010.

Overall, Black Friday has provided a strong kickoff to the main holiday shopping season, but to sustain foot traffic and convert it into high sales, retailers will need to understand their shopper conversion rates to take full advantage of increased shopper opportunity, Martin said.

Cohen said he expects shopper traffic to fall back to normal pre-holiday sales levels by Sunday morning. "There are more hours to shop, but consumers don't have more relatives or more money in their pocket, so once all the dust settles, we won't see too much growth overall," he was quoted as saying.