Black Friday struck a fresh record in US retail sales setting the tempo of the start of the holiday shopping season that comes after Thanksgiving, states early estimates.
Sales hit $11.4 billion, up 6.6 percent compared to last year, and the biggest dollar amount ever spent on Black Friday, Chicago-based research firm ShopperTrak said in a statement.
It was the largest year-on-year gain since an 8.3 percent increase in sales between 2006 and 2007, the firm said.
Foot traffic in stores was up 5.1 percent compared to Black Friday 2010.
"Black Friday is the biggest shopping day of the year and the traditional start to the holiday shopping season," said ShopperTrak founder Bill Martin.
"Despite our sluggish economy, shoppers proved they are looking for value and ready to buy if given a good customer experience."
But the company warned: "Still, it's just one day. It remains to be seen whether consumers will sustain this behavior through the holiday shopping season."
Shoppers mobbed malls and went online in droves to snap up bargains late Thursday, through the night and into Friday -- an annual sales ritual that marks the start to the end-of-year shopping season relied on by many retailers.
The shopping frenzy lasts throughout the weekend and into Cyber Monday, when retailers offer hot deals online following the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.
The increase in sales appeared to be far higher than the inflation rate, which eased to 3.5 percent in October as compared with a year ago, according to US Labor Department data.
The National Retail Federation was due to publish its first Black Friday sales estimates on Sunday.
Meanwhile, IBM reported a whopping 39.3-percent increase in online Thanksgiving Day spending, saying US shoppers had set the stage for 24.3-percent online growth on Black Friday compared to the same period last year.
"This year marked Thanksgiving's emergence as the first big spending day of the 2011 holiday season with a record number of consumers shifting their focus from turkey to tablets and the search for the best deals," commented John Squire, chief strategy officer at IBM Smarter Commerce.
"This momentum continued into Black Friday where the big winners were those retailers that delivered a smarter commerce experience with compelling, relevant deals that people could easily access from their channel of choice," he added.