After Black Friday, U.S. shoppers take a breather

NEW YORK Wed Dec 5, 2007 3:14pm EST

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NEW YORK Dec 5 (Reuters) - U.S. consumers took a breather from holiday shopping last week after flocking to stores for the Thanksgiving weekend and are now awaiting more deals before jumping back into the fray, according to data released on Wednesday by ShopperTrak RCT.

ShopperTrak RCT, which tracks sales at more than 50,000 U.S. retail locations, said retail sales for the week ended Dec. 1 fell 4.4 percent compared with same period a year ago, marking the largest year-over-year sales decline since March.

Total retail sales fell 12.5 percent compared with the previous week ended Nov. 24, which included the start of the Thanksgiving holiday shopping weekend, while store traffic fell 22.3 percent, it said.

The U.S. Thanksgiving weekend is seen as the start of the holiday shopping season, when retailers offer deep discounts on select items to draw shoppers into their stores on "Black Friday," the day after Thanksgiving, and also on Saturday.

But after the deals fade, shoppers often take a break, and delay their spending, awaiting more sales closer to Christmas.

"With three full weekends left before Christmas many consumers might be waiting until the last minute to wrap up their holiday spending," said Bill Martin, co-founder of ShopperTrak, in a statement.

On Tuesday, figures from International Council of Shopping Centers-UBS showed that retail sales at stores open at least a year, or same-store sales, rose 3.1 percent in the week ended Dec. 1 compared with a year earlier.

Same-store sales fell 2 percent compared with the previous week, ICSC-UBS said.

On Thursday, big retail chains including Wal-Mart Stores Inc (WMT.N), Target Corp (TGT.N), Kohl's Corp (KSS.N), Gap Inc (GPS.N) and Costco Wholesale Corp (COST.O) will report November sales results, providing more insight into the strength of sales during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. (Reporting by Nicole Maestri, editing by Gerald E. McCormick)

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