Page last updated at 14:24 GMT, Sunday, 30 November 2008

US holiday sales make solid start

Shoppers in Ohio
Thanksgiving marks the start of the holiday shopping season.

The US holiday shopping season got off to an encouraging start, with sales on the day after Thanksgiving up 3% from last year.

Data from ShopperTrak showed sales rose to $10.6bn on Friday, although it was the smallest gain since 2005.

The Thanksgiving weekend marks the start of the holiday shopping season and is regarded as an important test of how willing US consumers are to spend.

Analysts said shoppers were responding to heavy discounts.

"Under these circumstances, to start off the season in this fashion is truly amazing and is a testament to the resiliency of the American consumer, and undeniably proves a willingness to spend," said Bill Martin, co-founder of ShopperTrak.

However, Mr Martin added that spending was driven by steep discounts, which are likely to put retailers' profit margins under pressure.

Sales in the South rose 3.4% and they increased by 3% in the Midwest.

On Friday, crowds of shoppers woke up before dawn and queued in the cold to snare the special deals offered by many stores.

A shop worker died after being knocked to the ground by bargain-hunters at a Wal-Mart store in New York's suburbs.

Many retailers have suffered as consumers cut back their spending to cope with the worst economic crisis since the Depression.

US retail sales recorded the biggest monthly decline since 1992 in October as consumers cut back on spending.

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