The traditional kick-off to the holiday shopping season provided mixed messages to retailers as Black Friday sales edged up a marginal 0.3% over last year, the latest figures suggest.

According to ShopperTrak, consumers spent $10.69bn, compared with $10.66bn spent a year ago. But while sales were essentially flat, total US foot traffic increased 2.2% on Black Friday - which points to a shopper driven by various sales and promotions.

This supports the notion that holiday sales and door buster promotions early in the month hit Friday's performance. Sales and traffic for the first two weeks of November were up 6.1% and 6.2% respectively versus the same period in 2009. 

"Retailers were very conscious of driving traffic early in November and in doing so some might have thinned Black Friday spending a bit," said ShopperTrak founder Bill Martin.

"The reality is we have a deal driven consumer in 2010 and that consumer responded to some of the earliest deep discounts we've even seen for the holidays. Additionally, a percentage of retailers concentrated on pushing folks to their websites with various online only sales which most likely influenced Black Friday performance as well. 

"That being said, we still saw a record amount of money spent on Friday so it's hard to say Black Friday wasn't a success, it's just not the success we saw in the mid 2000s when the day really became a phenomenon with the American public. 

"And if retailers continue the pattern of early sales and online promotions, this could be the new norm in Black Friday performance."

ShopperTrak initially predicted a rise of 3.2% in sales and 1.0% in total US foot traffic for the 2010 holiday shopping season. The company says this forecast is still in line despite slower than anticipated Black Friday sales levels.