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NEW YORK CITY-The Friday after Thanksgiving is traditionally one of the three busiest shopping days of the year. Retailers count on it as the starting gun of what they hope will be a brisk six weeks of holiday gift purchasing. Since the mid 1990s, sales have grown steadily by 4-5% with some stores seeing as much as 50-60% of their profits coming during this time. With the recent retail slump concerns have loomed about the fate of these businesses, their real estate holdings and employment in the sector. If this weekend is any indication, though, perhaps there is cause for hope.

The only tabulations that are finding widespread approval these days are this weekend’s receipts from retailers across the country. Stockholders are pleased as well as retail, including the recently shaky e-tail, stocks rose. Friday’s Nasdaq closed up 149.04 points, the Dow was up 70.91 points and the S&P 500 rose 19.41 points this Black Friday. While the Nasdaq is down 29% overall this year and the Dow and S&P are both off close to 10% each, the early figures for retail following Thanksgiving helped boost prices.

Yahoo! was up Friday $2.69 per share and it reports its number of transactions doubled Friday from those recorded for the same day in 1999. Amazon.com’s stocks rose $3.75 per share and even Etoys found itself on the upswing, even if only by $0.59 per share. Kmart’s Bluelight.com that recently debuted doubled its gains from last weekend. Even the Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi is declaring that internationally bricks and mortar retailers saw 5-6% gains in spending this past weekend over last year’s Thanksgiving weekend, according to published reports.

The reports seem to be good from all manner of retailers throughout the city and the nation. Many analysts caution that Thanksgiving weekend cannot guarantee a healthy holiday season, and prior to this weekend, Dan Barry, chief retail economist for Merrill Lynch, was predicting the worst holiday season since 1995 with only a 2.5% rise in spending. Many still caution that the impact of high heating bills, a hotly contested presidential election that will go on despite Bush’s victory speech Sunday night, sluggish sales of the last few months and stiff competition between established bricks and mortar and the crowded e-tail world have not yet been determined.

The fear of optimism on the part of analysts has not discouraged retailers, though, who seem to be riding the storm and enjoying this weekend’s rush as only the beginning of a very busy six weeks. Stores are counting on the fact that many shoppers put off their purchases in the last few months and are now emerging from the slump to come out and spend in time for Christmas, Chanukah and Kwanzaa.

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