By all reports Black Friday and Cyber Monday 2011 were red-banner days for consumer spending, with implied optimism for what lies ahead for the U.S. economy. But a more measured look behind the headlines reveals that the early reports issued year after year are inevitably adjusted downward once the real numbers are in. And if it’s true that strapped consumers really are loosening up their wallets and warming up their credit cards, what does that really mean for an economy already drowning in debt?
The media breathlessly announces record-breaking retail sales on Black Friday—the Friday following Thanksgiving, when retailers historically begin to turn an annual profit—virtually every year, and 2011 was no different. Citing National Retail Federation numbers, the New York Times on Monday announced that Black Friday shoppers spent on average $400 each, with individual spending up 9.1% over last year—the biggest increase since 2006.