Best Buy a winner as US holiday sales surge

By Dhanya Skariachan , Reuters

NEW YORK–U.S. retailers racked up a record US$52.4 billion in sales over the Thanksgiving weekend, a 16.4-percent jump from a year ago, as early hours and attractive promotions brought out more shoppers, an industry trade group said on Sunday. Among the early winners after the traditional start of the holiday shopping season was Best Buy Co. Inc., a reversal from 2010 when the electronics retailer’s erroneous bet on 3D televisions led to a disappointing season. Best Buy drew in shoppers by being one of the companies that opened its stores at midnight Thanksgiving night, and unlike in 2010, it focused more on having lower prices for big TVs and other popular items. “Last year, they weren’t as responsive with their pricing as they needed to be. We are seeing a different set of behaviors from them this time around,” said Lawrence Creatura, a portfolio manager at Federated Clover Investment Advisors. Overall, a record 226 million shoppers visited stores or online shopping sites from Thursday through Sunday, up from 212 million last year, according to a survey from retail industry trade group the National Retail Federation. The survey was conducted by online research firm BIGresearch. The number of shoppers and the amount of spending surprised analysts who had expected sales to be tempered by a 9-percent unemployment rate, high costs for gasoline and concerns about fiscal uncertainty in Europe. But it is not at all certain that retailers will be able to keep the momentum going for the rest of the season. “One swallow does not a holiday season make. After the deepest recession in decades, the solid Black Friday weekend is welcome news, but we’re only in the second quarter of a long play-off game,” said Craig Johnson, president of consulting firm Customer Growth Partners.