Personal Finance

Shopping, and Debt, Make Big Black Friday Comebacks

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It’s shaping up to be a great holiday shopping season for retailers, but that could mean lasting pain for consumers using credit cards to load up on holiday gifts. Consumers spent $52.4 Billion over Thanksgiving weekend, an all-time record high, according to the National Retail Federation.

The average consumer dug deep, increasing spending from $365 last year to $398 in 2011. That meant plenty of joy for stores and economic forecasters.

“Stuffed to the brim from their holiday meals and eager to shop, more consumers than ever turned out for retailers’ Black Friday promotions, a promising sign for the economic recovery,” Matthew Shay, the federation’s president and CEO, said in a press release.

[Related article: Ten Best Holiday Shopping Tips From Around the Web]

But in the midst of an economic “recovery” that is infamously jobless, such a big increase in holiday spending could lead to an even bigger debt hangover come January. Last year, 21 percent of consumers planned to carry holiday-related credit card debt after January, according to Experian. Of those, three-quarters expected their holiday spending would linger well into March and beyond.

The average consumer owed more than $4,200 on her credit card at the end of 2010, Experian found. Much of that debt went toward financing the holidays. Experian has not yet released estimates for holiday-related debt in 2011.

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Regardless of the long-term costs and lingering economic uncertainty, many consumers appear ready to warm up their credit cards again after nearly four years of recession-era scrimping and saving. The average shopper spent $150 on web purchases over the Black Friday weekend, up nearly 38 percent from last year, the retail federation found. Total online spending reached a one-day record of $816 million,  a 26 percent jump over last year, according to comScore.

And Americans didn’t wait for the official holiday shopping season to start. Consumers spent $12 Billion online between November 1 and 25, comScore found, a 15 percent increase over 2010. Even Thanksgiving day saw an 18-percent annual increase in online sales, to $479 million.

“Despite some analysts’ predictions that the flurry of brick-and-mortar retailers opening their doors early for Black Friday would pull dollars from online retail, we still saw a banner day for e-commerce with more than $800 million in spending,” Gian Fulgoni, comScore’s chairman, said in a press release.

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Image: freefotouk, via Flickr.com

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