) -- Black Friday midnight openings generated a retail frenzy, setting precedent and already setting the tone for the holiday winners.

Those retailers that opened at midnight or earlier on Black Friday, like


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Best Buy

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saw on average a 24% boost in their conversion (the number of shoppers that actually made a purchase), according to the NPD Group, a consumer research firm.

"When compared to some stores that kept their traditional early Black Friday morning openings, it appears that some may have lost as much as 8% in their conversion rates," said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst with The NPD Group. "I would say that means we will have to be on the look-out for a New Tradition ... and that is more and more stores will be opening on Thanksgiving night next year."

But while these early door busters drove consumers into stores, they failed to keep the momentum building throughout the holiday weekend, NPD noted.

"Black Friday may have come in with a roar, but is going out with a whimper," Cohen said. "While record numbers took advantage of the door-buster deals and the early hour deals, it appears that is where most of the action was."

"We believe consumers have begun to catch onto retailers who posted early bird promotions and then extended them into the evening on Black Friday and came to the mall later to enjoy the same great deals as those who came out earlier," analyst Jennifer Black of the firm bearing her name wrote in a note. "We felt that last year's early morning Black Friday was more successful as a result of more consumers catching on this year."

Overall, 226 million shoppers visited stores and Web sites over Black Friday weekend, up from 212 million last year, according to a survey conducted by the National Retail Federation. The average holiday shopper spent $398.62 compared with $365.34 in 2010, with the NRF estimating total spending hit $52.4 billion.

But it was online that was the biggest winner, with online retail sales jumping 26% to $816 million, according to comScore. This made Black Friday the heaviest spending day on the Internet so far in 2011.

-- Reported by Jeanine Poggi in New York.

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