Consumer behavior changed this year as more Americans began or ended Thanksgiving Day by embracing early Black Friday deals and visiting stores on Thursday. ShopperTrak, the world's largest counter of retail foot traffic, estimates that when compared to "Black Weekend" last year, retail foot traffic rose 8.2 percent to more than 594 million store visits. Retail sales increased 2.7 percent, with shoppers spending about $22 billion across the weekend's four days. Thursday's "doorbuster" deals drove sales and traffic earlier in the weekend.

Holiday retail sales in the U.S. may rise 3.3 percent as more confident consumers increase their trips to the mall, according to researcher ShopperTrak. Store visits during the busiest shopping period of the year are expected to rise 2.8 percent after declining last November and December, according to an e-mailed statement from the Chicago-based firm that tracks so-called foot traffic in thousands of U.S. stores. Sales gained 3.7 percent during the same period in 2011, the company said.

Holiday shoppers continued to make the retail cash registers ring last week, boosting sales 21.7 percent over the previous week and 1.3 percent over the same week last year. According to ShopperTrak, sales increases during the week ending Dec. 17 made this December on pace to have higher retail sales than last year.

Despite the struggling economy and high unemployment rates, consumers plan to stuff their holiday stockings a little fuller this year. According to ShopperTrak, national retail sales when compared to the same period last year, will rise 3.0 percent during November and December, while foot traffic will decrease 2.2 percent.

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