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Black Friday shopping results not entirely negative

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Black Friday shopping results not entirely negative

Chicago (IL) – The expectations for Black Friday were shaky at best and it was clear that this year would be different than 2007 or 2006. But as fragile as the overall economy looks at this time, the fact that key online retailers saw traffic and revenue growth could be seen as a light in the dark. However, whether you see that light or not depends on your point of view.

Looking at economic data these days isn’t fun. Today we learned that the U.S. is now officially confirmed to be in a state of recession, and actually may have been in a decline since the beginning of the year, the Dow lost nearly 700 points in Monday trading and there are few who are not affected by this downturn in one way or the other. Positive news are rare these days and if we hear that there has been some sort of growth in Black Friday online traffic and sales, one could consider this piece of news a bright spot.

Nielsen Netratings estimates that Internet traffic to 120 representative online retailers grew by about 10% over the same period in 2007 and ended up at 31.7 million unique visitors. This number is echoed by price comparison site Pricegrabber.com, which estimated the growth at 11%. Growth to different sites, varied, of course, with the bulk of growth showing up at Wal-Mart (+106%), Target (+136%), Best Buy (+196%) and Circuit City (+352%). Ebay remained the largest destination with 9.9 million unique visitors, followed by Amazon.com (8.5 million) and Wal-Mart (6.0 million).

The question is whether that traffic growth translated into more purchases as well, and if we believe Comscore than there was not linear growth, but at least some growth: The firm estimates that online retailers sold products for about $534 million, up 1% from 2007. Sales on Thanksgiving Day were $288 million, up about 6%. However, sales were down about 4% for the entire month, Comscore believes.

According to Nielsen Netratings, much of the traffic growth was focused on a few key categories – consumer electronics (+219%), toys and video games (73%), home and garden (53%) and computer hardware and software (+30%). Pricegrabber.com found that there was quite some interest in Blu-ray players (+147%) and headphones (+102%).

The most popular Black Friday product, according to Pricegrabber.com, was Nintendo’s Wii game console, followed by Ugg’s “Classic Short” boot, Sony’s BDP-S350 Blu-ray player, Samsung’s 52” LN52A650 LCD TV and the Nintendo Wii Fit accessory. Ebay said that its members sold 3171 Nintendo Wiis at an average price of $349 and 1059 Wii Fit units at an average price of $140.

However, we feel that these numbers will not be good enough to excite many analysts.