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December, 4, 2016

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Lost in a Haze of Consumerism

NEW YORK -- Shoppers put in a strong showing on Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday.

Holiday spending rose 9 percent Thursday and Friday combined, compared with the same two-day period last year, according to First Data.

The bump was fueled by shoppers turning to online deals.

E-commerce sales rose 10.8 percent for the two-day period, while sales at physical stores grew 8.6 percent, according to First Data, which analyzed online and in-store payments across different forms of payment cards from nearly 1 million merchants Thanksgiving and Friday. The data captures about 40 percent of all card transactions in the U.S. but excludes cash.

The Thanksgiving weekend kicks of the holiday shopping season though stores have increasingly started their sales earlier in October. The Friday after Thanksgiving — known as Black Friday — used to unofficially mark the kickoff to door-buster sales, but now retailers are opening earlier on Thanksgiving. But while the holiday weekend has lost some of its punch, it still sets the tone for the season.

"It was strong shopping," said Rishi Chhabra, vice president, information and analytics products, at First Data. "But people are shopping online more. And that trend keeps going up and up."

According to First Data, almost 25 percent of the holiday dollars spent over the two-day period came from e-commerce, up from 18 percent last year and nearly 16 percent in 2014. Electronics and appliances were by far the big attractions, with the category enjoying a 26.5 percent increase in sales, fueled by shoppers' interest in TVs and other new gadgets. That compared to just a 2.3 percent increase in the year-ago period.

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