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American consumers got holiday shopping off to a strong start

<i>Yuki Iwamura/AFP/Getty Images</i><br/>
AFP via Getty Images
Yuki Iwamura/AFP/Getty Images

By Nathaniel Meyersohn, CNN Business

Americans dished out for toys, televisions and clothing on Black Friday and into the holiday weekend, despite decades-high inflation and a potential recession looming in 2023.

The National Retail Federation, a trade group for the retail industry, said a record 196 million Americans shopped in stores and online over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, a 10% increase from last year.

“As inflationary pressures persist, consumers have responded by stretching their dollars in any way possible,” NRF chief executive Matthew Shay said in a news release Tuesday.

Shoppers returned to physical stores on Black Friday after avoiding much of in-person shopping the last two holidays due to Covid-19 concerns.

Mastercard said in-store sales increased 12% on Black Friday from last year.

Consumers also spent a total of $11.3 billion on Cyber Monday, representing 5.8% growth year-over-year, according to Adobe Analytics. Cyber Monday is the biggest online shopping day of the year, and this year set a new annual sales record.

“With oversupply and a softening consumer spending environment, retailers made the right call this season to drive demand through heavy discounting,” said Vivek Pandya, lead analyst at Adobe. “It spurred online spending to levels that were higher than expected.”

Retailers have dangled promotions to drive consumer demand and unload excess inventory. It appears the discounts were deep enough to convince many customers to buy.

Consumers making more than $100,000 a year drove spending over the holiday weekend, Shay said on a call with reporters Tuesday.

Lower-income consumers spend a larger share of their income on necessities and have pulled back some of their discretionary spending to afford groceries and essentials, analysts say.

Overall, the National Retail Federation projects holiday sales to increase up to 8% from a year ago. While that figure would be slower growth than last year, it’s above historical averages.

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