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Black Friday deals: Are consumers facing them in a 'frugal' mood?

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Glen Stubbe/Minneapolis Star Tribune/MCT

(Read caption) Around 2:30 a.m., Tyler Effertz, left, purchases an Xbox 360 Elite, a few games and accessories in the Game Stop store in Eden Prairie Centers, Minn., on Black Friday 2007. With retail sales expected to slink even farther below 2007 levels, will consumers ignore Black Friday deals due to a lack of confidence?

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For retailers, the scheme is simple: Pitch the hottest Black Friday deals and watch consumers flock to their stores.

That is, of course, if consumers are feeling confident enough to spend early and often this holiday season. Recent surveys suggest this might not be the case.

Consumer confidence registered an ever-so-slight increase in November, ticking up to 49.5, eight-tenths of a point higher than October.

"The moderate improvement in the short-term outlook was the result of a decrease in the percent of consumers expecting business and labor market conditions to worsen, as opposed to an increase in the percent of consumers expecting conditions to improve," says Lynn Franco, director of The Conference Board Consumer Research Center, in a press release Tuesday. "Income expectations remain very pessimistic and consumers are entering the holiday season in a very frugal mood."

The Consumer Confidence Survey polled 5,000 Americans monthly and is published by the Conference Board.

These findings track with other surveys on holiday shopping. One such piece of research by consultant group Convergys, a customer interaction and human-resources consulting firm, shows that consumers were planning on reducing their spending (approximately 50 percent of respondents) or keeping spending constant relative to their income (40 percent). That's bad news for retailers, considering 2008 saw a 3.4 percent drop in holiday spending from 2007.

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