Fifty-nine billion dollars in retail sales this past weekend -- now that's talking turkey.
With more and more shopping centers opening their doors before midnight Thursday this year, Thanksgiving night became one big loaded spring for retailers, catapulting holiday sales into Black Friday and clear through the entire weekend.
Around the Bay Area and across the country, from the big chains to the mom-and-pop gift shops, at outlets both online and off, shopkeepers saw a record 247 million shoppers in stores and websites over the four-day weekend, up from 226 million last year, according to a National Retail Federation survey.
Seduced by door-buster deals that had consumers lined up by the hundreds outside stores such as the new H&M on Santana Row, the average holiday shopper spent $423 this weekend, up from $398 last year.
Here in Silicon Valley, where robust job growth is fueling consumer spending and jamming the roadways with new commuters, retailers said their holiday season got off with a bang. And the newfound exuberance seemed to cut across all categories, from 4 a.m. lines outside Sears at Eastridge Mall to clanging cash registers at humble neighborhood clothing boutiques.
"We had a line of people when we opened Friday morning," said Alex Barnia, manager of Powell's Sweet Shoppe in Willow Glen, whose high-end, European-made candies have long made great stocking stuffers. "Our business this weekend was up maybe 30 percent over last year. The economy is coming back and people are out there spending more, often rewarding themselves for their own hard work, I think."
Benny Boveda, district manager for eight Target stores in the San Jose area, said, "We saw crowds that were much larger than last year, especially at that earlier 9 p.m. opening on Thanksgiving. Last year we opened at midnight, and we really noticed the difference this year.
"And not only were shoppers coming in for the electronics door-buster sales," he said, "but they lingered and kept shopping longer, buying things like apparel goods, home furnishings and toys."
Lining up to snatch great deals, shoppers this year seemed to relish a new post-Thanksgiving ritual -- the door-buster queue. They lined up for deeply discounted television sets. They lined up to buy candy. And they lined up for almost-too-good-to-be-true storewide discounts, like the one at Hollister at Eastridge Mall.
"They had 50 percent sale off everything in the store," said Melanie Black, spokeswoman for the 150-outlet center off East Capitol Expressway. "At one point, there were 300 people waiting to get inside. Security would only let 15 people in at a time because the store wasn't big enough to handle the crowds."
More so than in years past, retailers noticed that this first pass at holiday shopping was becoming a full-blown family affair. Black said many adult shoppers brought along really young kids who normally would have been home in bed.
"You'd think little kids would be either really cranky or asleep in their parents' arms at midnight," Black said. "But they were neither. They were just good little shoppers."
Of course, Black said, this was still at a relatively early hour in the new Thanksgiving-night scheme of things.
"At midnight, they were really good kids. But 3 a.m. may have been a different story."
Contact Patrick May at 408-920-5689; follow him at Twitter.com/patmaymerc.
by the numbers
$59.1 billion: Number of dollars spent online and offline by holiday shoppers over the four-day weekend
247 million: Number of shoppers who took to the streets or the Internet this year over Black Friday weekend (including Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday)
226 million: Number of shoppers last year
$423: Number of dollars the average shopper spent online or in stores over the weekend this year
$398: Number of dollars they spent last year
$172: Number of dollars the average shopper spent online
28: Percentage of holiday shoppers who were at the stores by midnight Thursday
Source: National Retail Federation