Amid a lagging economy and high unemployment Black Friday sales were up 6.6 percent from last year, which many are taking as a good sign for today's Cyber Monday mayhem and the rest of the shopping season, but those numbers are less optimistic than they sound. Just because people came out for the sales on Black Friday, doesn't mean the trend will continue or that the economy is getting any healthier.
The numbers themselves don't exactly tell the whole story. Stores reported higher earnings for two reasons that don't have much to do with the economy: Internet and longer shopping hours, as The Wall Street Journal's Dana Mattioli and Stu Woo note. Those who might otherwise have abstained from the mall craziness went to the Internet for buying. Online shopping sales were up between 24 and 26 percent this year and the National Retail Federation estimates that of the average $398.62 each consumer spent on Friday, 38 percent came from online sales. In addition to an Internet influx, this year certain stores like Macy's and Best Buy decided to open doors at midnight Thursday night. More time available for shopping of course would correlate with bigger sales and don't necessarily reflect a growing economy.