Canadians visited malls and online retailers in droves during Black Friday and Cyber Monday events this year, driving a significant boost in sales for retailers in contrast to earlier predictions that holiday spending could be weak.

Canadians increased spending by 8.3 per cent this Black Friday (Nov. 26) and by by 15.4 per cent on Cyber Monday (Nov. 29) compared to dollars spent during the comparable period in 2010, Moneris Solutions reported Friday.

Canada's largest credit and debit card processor said the data should be an encouraging sign for retailers, pointing to a strong holiday shopping season.

Black Friday, the day after U.S. Thanksgiving, has been the most popular shopping day south of the border for many years, and Cyber Monday is becoming established as a day for online sales.

Higher sales

Canadians have also been getting involved, even though they celebrate Thanksgiving about seven weeks earlier in early October, as retailers advertise deep discounts to keep their customers from crossing the border to shop.

"Black Friday and Cyber Monday were a great success for merchants on this side of the border," said Santo Ligotti, vice-president for arketing and communications at Moneris Solutions.

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"If these two shopping days are any indication of how Canadians will be spending this holiday season, then we can likely expect overall positive results in December."

Earlier reports had indicated that feelings of financial insecurity could overwhelm the Christmas giving spirit, pressuring Canadians to be more frugal holiday shoppers this season.   

A survey by Deloitte Canada in November predicted spending would grow by a modest two per cent over last year -- mostly due to higher prices in line with inflation.

A report by OTX and Google also found Canadians planned to be more frugal this year. The average amount Canadians said they planned to spend this year was $711, down from $728 last holiday season.

And a Bank of Montreal study predicted in October that Canadian retail sales will be up about 2.5 per cent in November and December, compared with a gain of 3.1 per cent in last year's holiday season.

Shoppers also opened their wallets more than expected south of the border.

Online sales from the U.S. were up 18 per cent from a year ago on Cyber Monday.

That followed an even stronger kickoff to the holiday shopping season over the weekend. Americans shopped in record numbers, driven by earlier store openings and a push by retailers for online sales.

A record 226 million shoppers visited stores and websites during the four-day holiday weekend starting on Thanksgiving Day, up from 212 million last year, according to the National Retail Federation.

And sales on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, rose seven per cent to $11.4 billion, the largest amount ever spent, according to ShopperTrak, which gathers stores' data.

Moneris points out that Canadian retailers and shoppers have also jumped on board these trends.

Consumer electronics led the growth in spending on both Black Friday and Cyber Monday in Canada.

On Friday, consumer electronics sales rose 18.5 per cent, while consumers also opened up their wallets at department stores, where spending rose 18 per cent compared to the day in 2010.

Cyber Monday — a day of online sales and promotions the Monday after the U.S. long weekend — continues to rise in popularity on this side of the border.

Consumer electronics saw a whopping 131.5 per cent increase and clothing retailers saw a 58 per cent jump in spending.

"With many online merchants offering free shipping and liberal return policies, the category continues to grow," Moneris said.

The Moneris Spending Report provides a snapshot of consumer spending by analyzing credit and debit card transactions.