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Electronics Lead Way in Record-Breaking Black Friday Sales

Xbox Black Friday - H 2011
Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

Video game consoles, digital cameras, TV sets and computers were among the holiday weekend's best sellers.

Thanks to an improving economy and deep discounts, the just concluded Black Friday weekend set sales and traffic records, and was especially bountiful for the industries near and dear to the heart of Hollywood.

Among the most popular purchase was electronics, according to a survey conducted by BIGresearch for the National Retail Federation, led by the sale of video game consoles.

Other items on Santa's electronic hot list included digital cameras, TV sets, laptop and notebook computers, smart phones, MP3 players, e-readers and tablet computers.

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Much of that was driven by deep discounts offered by retailers, which in some cases were loss leaders (items they lose money on) that drove traffic to their stores. For instance Walmart offered a DVD of the 2009 hit movie The Hangover for $1.96 per copy. It has a list price of $10.

TV set prices for all size screens, 3D ready sets and related devices like Blu-ray players were all down sharply from a year earlier, helping drive sales.

Sherif Mityas, partner in the retail practice at consulting firm A.T. Kearney said TV sets in particular were huge sellers because of deep discounting, especially by mass retailers.

"Toys, games, DVD's, were also strong across all sectors," Mityas told The Hollywood Reporter. "Sales of plush, electronics and even board games – which have been a slow seller in the recent past – were all up. Every category saw an uptick this weekend."

Apple stores reported huge sales activity with three quarters of outlets polled reporting they completely sold out of their inventory of iPhone 4S by the end of the weekend. About half of AT&T stores sold out of the phones as well. Apple iPad sales were reportedly up sharply as well.

Amazon.com reported hot sales for Kindle products, as THR noted on Monday. The Kindle Fire tablet, launched on Sept. 28, remained the best-selling product on the e-tailer's site for the eighth week running. Overall, Kindle sales increased fourfold over last year, Amazon said, but it didn't disclose the number of units sold.

Consumer electronics was second only to clothing as most popular gift purchase, according to the survey. The report says 48% bought some kind of consumer electronic or related product (software, accessories like cases) over the weekend. They also said that the average consumer spent $246 on electronic gifts, up 6% from last year, which represents one-third of all gift spending.

It was part of a blockbuster sales weekend. Consumers spent a record $52.4 billion during the four days, up 6.6% ($11.4 billion) from the $45 billion spent in 2010 – which itself was a record - according to the National Retail Federation.

Foot traffic in malls rose 5.1%, according to a survey by ShopperTrak.

There were more U.S. shoppers out taking advantage of the Black Friday weekend bargains than ever before. "Despite our sluggish economy, shoppers proved they are looking for value and ready to buy if given a good customer experience," said ShopperTrak founder Bill Martin. "This is the largest year-over-year gain in ShopperTrak's National Retail Sales Estimate for Black Friday since the 8.3% increase we saw between 2007 and 2006."

The group estimates that Black Friday provides retailers with 20% of their sales for the holiday shopping season.

There were an estimated 118 million people shopping over the weekend, according to estimates from a survey by the Consumer Electronics Association and CARAVAN.

When you add in those who shopped online, there were a record 226 million shoppers, up from 212 million last year, according to the survey by BIGresearch for the National Retail Federation. That group estimated shoppers spent $398.6 ,over the weekend, up from $365.3 million last year. They say 37.8% of sales were online.

What this means to the rest of the holiday shopping season depends on who you ask. A studio insider said that the strong traffic and sales will mean retailers will not have to discount as much for the rest of the holiday season – which runs until the beginning of January with after Christmas sales and people using gift cards and credits for returns.
Another source said with the economy still unsteady, the returns show consumers will only respond to discounts and sales.

Mityas is one of those who thinks we are headed for a record holiday sales season based on the big numbers over Black Friday weekend.

"This bodes well for retailers because it was broadly based," said Mityas. "You're not going to have big markdowns in any one sector as you get closer to Christmas because inventory overall was selling well."