Record holiday weekend shoppers but spending drops

Black Friday shoppers fill the aisles of the

Black Friday shoppers fill the aisles of the Target in Huntington Station as they opened at 8 p.m. Thanksgiving Eve for Black Friday shoppers. (Nov. 28, 2013) (Credit: Howard Schnapp)

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Retailers got Americans into stores during the start to the holiday shopping season. Now, they'll need to figure out how to get them to actually shop.

While a record number of people shopped in stores and online over the four-day Thanksgiving weekend, spending was expected to fall for the first time since the National Retail Federation began tracking it in 2006.

"The economy spoke loud and clear over the past few days," said Brian Sozzi, CEO and chief equities strategist at Belus Capital Advisors. "We are going to see an increase in markdowns."

A record 141 million people were expected to shop in stores and online over the four-day period that ended Sunday, up from last year's 137 million, according to the results of a survey of nearly 4,500 shoppers conducted for the NRF. But spending fell an estimated 2.9 percent to $57.4 billion, the survey showed.

The numbers underscore the challenges stores have faced since the recession began in late 2007. Retailers had to offer deeper discounts to get people to shop during the downturn, but Americans still expect those "70 percent off" signs now during the recovery.

And stores may have only exacerbated that expectation this year. By offering bargains earlier in the season, it seems they've created a vicious cycle in which they'll need to constantly offer bigger sales. Shoppers who took advantage of "holiday" deals before Thanksgiving may have "deal fatigue" and are cautious about buying anything else unless it's heavily discounted.

NRF President Matthew Shay said the trade group still expects sales for November and December to increase 3.9 percent to $602.1 billion. That's higher than the 3.5 percent pace in the previous year.

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