black friday shoppers*Man, it looks like this “Black Friday” sales thing has really caught on with consumers.

Apparently drawn  by aggressive discounts and earlier-than-ever opening hours, shoppers opened their wallets on weekend in record numbers and handed retailers a promising start to the holiday season.

Merchants raked in an estimated $59.1 billion in sales from Thanksgiving Day through Sunday, up from $52.4 billion a year earlier, as millions flocked to stores and browsed online, according to the National Retail Federation. Spending per shopper jumped 6% to $423.

The spending mania is expected to continue into so-called Cyber Monday, which is the first workday after the holiday weekend, when many indulge in online shopping in their cubicles or offices.

“Everyone is feeling very bullish,” said Matthew Shay, chief executive of the National Retail Federation. “We are really seeing a five-day weekend that started on Thursday and ends on Monday. The entire week is really getting extended with special promotions that roll out in waves.”

Huge retailers and small boutiques alike tried to get a jump on the competition by opening as early as 8 p.m. Thanksgiving. That appears to have paid off, attracting first-time Black Friday bargain hunters with extended hours.

Nearly 30% of consumers who went out shopping over the long weekend were in stores by midnight Thanksgiving, according to the industry trade group. More young shoppers — about 40% of those ages 18 and 34 — indulged in late-night shopping compared with 25% of people ages 35 to 54 who did the same.

Read/learn more at LA Times.