STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Everybody said you wouldn't shop quite so much on the day after Thanksgiving, but apparently, you did go shopping - quite a lot. The day after Thanksgiving is known as Black Friday because retailers are supposed to see their bottom lines go into the black. Retailers were worried about a red Friday instead, but in fact, sales surged.

We've got retail analyst Howard Davidowitz on the line to find out what happened.

Good morning.

Mr. HOWARD DAVIDOWITZ (Chairman, Davidowitz & Associates Inc.): Good morning.

INSKEEP: So what happened to the dire warnings of hardly any sales?

Mr. DAVIDOWITZ: Well, I think everybody expected sales to be very a dynamic Black Friday. I think the concern is the day after. I think you will see and I think most people - you're going to see a big low now for about 10 days. The promotions were tremendous. The deals were terrific. The preparation was excellent.

Best Buy, Wal-Mart, Penney's, Kohl's were loaded. It was driven on promotions, lots of people came out. The average customer spent less than last year, but about 140, 150 million folks went shopping.

INSKEEP: So they got people into the stores for that one day, but you're not sure…

Mr. DAVIDOWITZ: Correct.

INSKEEP: …that's going to be sustained for the season.

Mr. DAVIDOWITZ: Right. We're going to see a lull now because everybody was geared up for that day where having got the best possible deals; retailers can't repeat that. Those deals are prime-phased. Their one-day sales; their five-hour sales; their seven-hour sales - those super deals are over for a while now, so you'll see a major falloff in shopping.

INSKEEP: What does it mean that the average consumer spent a little less?

Mr. DAVIDOWITZ: I think you're going to see people spend less because of the - the average American has got the highest debt he's ever had, falling home prices, adjustable rate mortgages going up. So, you know, he's - the average American is sort of underwater financially - so negative saving. So you're going to see people spend less on the holiday, and that's exactly what happened on Black Friday.

INSKEEP: So in spite of, in some ways, a strong Black Friday, you think the National Retail Federation is right to predict the weakest retail-sales holiday season in five years?

Mr. DAVIDOWITZ: Yeah, I think it will be worse than what they are predicting. Significantly ideal, only half of what they're predicting, maybe a growth of 1 to two percent, I think what they are predicting is that if you look at last month of what happened: Penney is down, Macy's down, Bon-Ton down, Gottschalk's down, Kohl's downs, Penney's - you go down a list. Limited down, Ann Taylor down, Gap down - almost every retail was negative. Talbot's on (unintelligible) of sales base was negative, so I don't see a dynamic retail season at all.

INSKEEP: Very briefly, let's talk about the so-called Cyber Monday. Retailers seem to want everybody to go on their computers today and buy something.

Mr. DAVIDOWITZ: I think this was the very dynamic area. Online sales and gift cards are very dynamic areas. I think everybody will go on their computers today. It's so convenient. It's so easy. They could also shop from work, and there are a tremendous number of deals one day only for Cyber Monday.

So I think you're going to see some terrific business again on Cyber Monday because of a lot of the deals, a lot of retails, tons of emails went out, special promotion. A lot of stuff is geared for this Monday, and a lot of people are going to take advantage of that shopping from work.

INSKEEP: Retailers trying to stay afloat. Mr. Davidowitz, thanks very much.

Mr. DAVIDOWITZ: And thanks for inviting me.

INSKEEP: Howard Davidowitz is head of the retail consulting firm in his own name. He's based in New York.

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