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WASHINGTON (TheStreet) -- Retail traffic and spending increased over the Black Friday weekend compared with last year, according to a survey by the National Retail Federation.

The survey said 212 million shoppers visited stores and Web sites over weekend, up from 195 million during the same period last year.

Meanwhile, average spending per shopper increased to $365.34, up from $343.31 last year.

Total spending reached an estimated $45.0 billion, according to the survey, released Sunday. Last year, the NRF said total Black Friday weekend spending was $41.2 billion.

"While Black Friday weekend is not always an indicator of holiday season performance, retailers should be encouraged that a focus on value and discretionary gifts has shoppers in the spirit to spend," said Matthew Shay, NRF President and CEO. "As retailers look ahead to the first few weeks of December, it will be important for them to keep momentum going with savings and incentives that holiday shoppers simply can't pass up."

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The NRF survey defines Black Friday weekend as Thursday, Friday, Saturday and projected spending for Sunday. The survey estimates the number of shoppers, not the number of people.

More shoppers are trying to get an early start to the holiday season, and more retailers are opening their doors early. The number of people who began Black Friday shopping at midnight tripled this year, to 9.5% from 3.3% in 2009, the survey said. And by 4 a.m. Friday, nearly one-fourth of Black Friday shoppers were already at the stores.

Last year, shoppers tended to focus on practical items, but this year shoppers opted for more discretionary gift items, according to the NRF survey. The number of people who purchased jewelry over the weekend rose substantially, from 11.7% in 2009 to 14.3% this year, and more people purchased gift cards, toys and books and electronic entertainment than a year ago.

Shoppers also appeared less focused on visiting discounters. The percentage of people who shopped at discounters declined 7.2%, to 40.3% this year from 43.2% last year. Meanwhile, both department stores and clothing stores saw healthy increases in traffic.


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More shoppers looked for gifts in cyberspace, as the percentage of people who shopped online this weekend rose 15.2%, to 33.6% this year from 28.5% last year, the survey showed. The National Retail Federation said this was a "strong sign" heading into so-called Cyber Monday, the Monday after Thanksgiving.

Retailers dub the day after Thanksgiving "Black Friday" because traditionally it has been seen as the day when merchants moved into the "black," or turned profitable for the year.

The NRF is the world's largest retail trade organization.

This article was written by a staff member of TheStreet.