Analysts were lukewarm on 2009 Black Friday sales, but from all indications, they were better than expected. At least online. Online Black Friday sales grew 11 percent compared to last year’s, according to comScore. Overall Black Friday sales grew 3 percent, about what analysts had predicted. ComScore reports that 2009 Black Friday online retail sales reached $595 million, the second highest spending day of the year. “While this acceleration in spending suggests the online holiday season may be shaping up slightly more optimistically than anticipated, it may also reflect the heavy discounting and creative promotions being put forth by retailers that now encompass the use of social networks such as Facebook and Twitter,” said comScore chair Gian Fulgoni.

I would agree with Fulgoni’s assessment. From what I saw on aggregators and social networking sites, Black Friday sales were getting a significantly larger push than last year. It just remains to see how the rest of the month turns out before heading into December.

“Cyber Monday – the traditional kick-off to the online holiday shopping season – and the subsequent weeks will be the real test for how online retailers fare this season,” Fulgoni said. “That said, this is a very encouraging start.”

I would suspect that Cyber Monday sales to be less encouraging than Black Friday’s, as the tide seems to be turning towards shopping on the off-days as opposed to when employees return to work. Adding to the holiday totals was the $318 million spent online on Thanksgiving Day; Thursday’s sales grew 10 percent over last year’s 288 million.

comScore predicts that total 2009 holiday retail sales will grow 3 percent. Before the holiday weekend, the National Retail Federation predicted a drop of 1 percent, still better than 2008’s 3.4 percent drop.

By Mark Alvarez