Black Friday Sales Jump 6% vs. 2005

A survey says retail sales posted a healthy gain but cautions not to read too much into one day's results.
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U.S. retail sales posted a healthy year-over-year gain on Black Friday, according to one national survey of mall-based stores.

Sales grew 6% to $8.96 billion from the same day a year before, according to estimates from ShopperTrak RCT, a Chicago-based research group that tracks sales at 45,000 locatiions around the country.

The day after Thanksgiving, known as Black Friday to retailers, marks the traditional start of the holiday shopping season, and retailers and market participants often look to it as an indicator of how the season will shape up. ShopperTrak noted, however, that Black Friday results are not always a reliable gauge.

"Because Black Friday isn't the greatest bellwether for the season's performance, retailers need to remain cautious, but undoubtedly this type of a season opening is a nice shot in the arm for the industry," said Bill Martin, co-founder of ShopperTrak.

The research group said that extended Black Friday discounts and the recent fall in energy costs may have prompted consumers to spend liberally this weekend.

Indeed,

shoppers were reported flooding stores early on Black Friday to take advantage of holiday promotions. But the stock market apparently still has some anxiety about the strength of consumer spending, and there is also concern about the degree to which aggressive discounts will pressure retailers' margins.

The nation's largest retailer,

Wal-Mart

(WMT) - Get Report

didn¿t appear to partake of the sales gains reflected in the ShopperTrak numbers.

Wal-Mart said Saturday that its U.S. same-store sales fell 0.1% in November, falling short of the company's previous forecast for flat sales during the month. Many large retailers plan to release November sales results Thursday.