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Wii leads the way on healthy Black Friday

Retailers had reason to smile on the popular shopping day, as consumers went in search of bargains--especially on electronics shelves.

Update 2:03 p.m. PST: Added NPD and Apple paragraphs.

Black Friday proved to be a relatively bright light in an economy largely characterized by dark, gloomy reports.

Overall, retail sales for the day after Thanksgiving were up 3 percent from the same day in 2007, with preliminary estimates putting total sales in the U.S. at $10.6 billion, according to Shoppertrak RCT. (Shoppertrak derives its retail benchmark from a wide range of categories, including consumer electronics, sporting goods, apparel, and general merchandise.)

Nintendo Wii
On Black Friday, the Wii had the right touch. GameSpot

Web shopping saw an even larger percentage gain for the day, with traffic up 11 percent year over year, per comparison shopping site

Taking the crown as the top product of the day was the Nintendo Wii, according to both PriceGrabber and online commerce giant eBay, which pulled data from its namesake site and other eBay-owned sites including PayPal and

The Wii game console was the most searched-for product on eBay, followed by the Wii Fit companion product. Consumers snatched up 3,171 Wiis over eBay, at an average selling price of $349, followed by the Wii Fit, with 1,059 sold at an average selling price of $140.

Market watchers pointed out that, in the dire economy of 2008, online shoppers and consumers generally were likely motivated by widespread discounting by anxious sellers.

"Consumers are responding to aggressive promotions and price drops on popular electronics," Ron LaPierre, president of PriceGrabber, said in a statement.

The NPD Group offered a similar assessment from the retail front lines on Friday:

The overall initial conclusion for Black Friday is that sales and traffic were strong, likely on par with prior years. Consumers were drawn by the appearance of bargains and low prices and electronics are increasingly the primary driver of consumers' interest in Black Friday shopping.

According to PriceGrabber, the following were the most popular products on Black Friday--nine of the 10 are gadgets, with the odd product out being one styling of the popular Ugg boots:

• Nintendo Wii console
• Ugg Australia "classic short" boot
• Sony BDP-S350 1080p Blu-ray disc player
• Samsung LN52A650 52" LCD TV
• Nintendo Wii Fit
• Panasonic TH-42PX80U 42" plasma TV
• Sennheiser HD 555 headphones
• Canon EOS Rebel XSi Black SLR digital camera kit
• Acer Aspire One AOA110-1295 notebook PC
• Canon PowerShot A590 IS black digital camera

The consumer electronics category that saw the largest gains from Black Friday 2007 was Blu-ray/HD-DVD players, up 147 percent, according to PriceGrabber. Headphones were up 103 percent. (By comparison, women's sleep and lounge wear was up 415 percent, women's boots were up 203 percent, and watches were up 202 percent.)

On eBay's, a GPS sold every 9 minutes and an MP3 player every 11 minutes. On eBay proper, the hottest products in those categories were the Garmin Nuvi GPS and the iPod Touch music player.

Apple seemed to have had a good Black Friday. Fortune's Apple 2.0 blog reported Sunday that on, 10 of the 25 bestselling electronics products (including three of the top 10) were Apple products, led by the iPod Touch. The Fortune report also said that by Sunday the iPod Touch had fallen to No. 4, with Amazon's own Kindle moving into first.

Despite the good returns from Black Friday, no one seemed eager to predict continued economic cheer through the rest of the holiday season.

"While this is an encouraging start for retailers, there's no guarantee these deep discounts will continue after Black Friday weekend, which could slow spending," Bill Martin, co-founder of ShopperTrak, said in a statement. "Additionally, consumers have just 27 days to shop this year as opposed to 32 in 2007, which may catch some procrastinating consumers off guard, leading to lower sales levels."