A national recession, frozen credit market and growing job insecurity apparently weren't enough to dampen the Christmas cheer of American consumers, according to polling data from shoppers this Thanksgiving weekend.
Both spending and crowd size increased, albeit modestly, across the nation over the weekend, bolstering retailers' spirits going into the holiday shopping season.
Sales on Friday and Saturday grew 1.9 percent from 2007, according to Chicago-based ShopperTrak RCT's National Retail Sales Estimate.
"It was a little stronger than we expected, said ShopperTrak RCT spokesman Aaron Martin.
Martin said stores will likely see a lull in activity now that the Thanksgiving weekend is over, but sales will inevitably pick up later in the season as retailers push more discounts and procrastinators begrudgingly hit the stores, he said.
ShopperTrak forecasted a measly one-tenth percent sales gain this season, although it expects traffic to decrease 9.9 percent.
Whether or not the group will stick with those figures depends on how retailers fared on Sunday.
"There's always a chance that it could be revised," Martin said.
Casey Schyvynk, a manager at Kohl's department store in Gilbert, said that the crowds seemed a bit smaller, but the store met sales projections throughout the weekend.
"It wasn't like everybody shopped Friday, then nobody came out on Saturday," she said. "Our sales (on Saturday) are very similar to Friday - just a little, maybe, less aggressive. So we were still on Saturday. It just (wasn't) quite as intense.
The Washington, D.C.-based National Retail Federation said retailers slashed prices aggressively in the days leading up to Thanksgiving.
Total sales and crowd sizes over the weekend exceeded the group's expectations, said NRF spokesman Scott Krugman.
"But at the same time, it probably came at the cost of profits in some cases, because of the deeper discounting," he said.
Krugman said he was skeptical retailers would be able to maintain the momentum from the weekend, and the group was sticking to its modest forecasted sales increase of 2.2 percent.
Dennis Hoffman, an economist at the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, said it's unlikely that the state fared as well as the nation.
"Our retail numbers have been running lower than the nation for the last couple of months, and our ... job loss is among the worst in the nation," he said. "So it would be unlikely - given all the tea leaves - that we would have done as well or better than some of these national figures that have come out."
Before the weekend was over, retailers and experts were already looking to the day known as CyberMonday - the unofficial kickoff to the online retail season, when customers shop at their desks as they return to work.
A survey by Shop.org, a division of the National Retail Federation, said 84.6 million consumers planned to shop online from home or at work Monday, up from 72 million a year ago and 60.7 million in 2006.
PayPal, a popular online payment service, said it saw a 26 percent jump in year-over-year sales on Friday alone.
Still, experts doubted that CyberMonday would offer much of a boost to spending levels.
John Morris, an analyst at Wachovia Capital Markets, wrote in a note published Monday that online traffic and business were strong on Black Friday but that the "strength did not carry through the remainder of the weekend as business fell off sharply on Saturday."