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Black Friday losing allure?
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NEW YORK (AP) - Black Friday fatigue is setting in.

Early discounting, more online shopping and a mixed economy meant fewer people shopped over Thanksgiving weekend, according to a survey of shoppers released Sunday by the National Retail Federation.

Overall, 133.7 million people shopped at stores and online over the four-day holiday weekend, down 5.2 percent from last year, according to a survey of 4,631 people conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics for the trade group.

Total spending for the weekend is expected to fall 11 percent to $50.9 billion from an estimated $57.4 billion last year. Shoppers, on average, are expected to spend $380.95 over the four days, down 6.4 percent from $407.02 last year. That marked the second year in a row spending was down.

Part of the reason is that Target, Macy's, Wal-Mart and other major retailers pushed fat holiday discounts as early as Halloween and opened stores even earlier on Thanksgiving to kick off the holiday shopping season, stealing some thunder from Black Friday and the rest of the weekend.

The preliminary data also raises worries shoppers remain frugal despite improving employment and falling gas prices.

Matt Shay, the trade group's CEO, told reporters that the effect of the economy is puzzling, but he believes that people benefiting a recovering economy may not feel the need to fight the crowds to get the deepest discount on a TV or toaster. And those who still feel like they're still stuck in a recession may not have the money and will stretch out what they spend through Christmas.

"While they're more optimistic, they're very cautious," Shay told reporters during a conference call. "They're still looking for the deals. If the deals are not right for them, they're not going to spend."

Bottom line: Expect more deep discounting, all season long.

"Every day will be Black Friday. Every minute will be Cyber Monday," he said.

That could be what it takes to get shoppers to open their wallets for the holiday shopping season, which accounts for 20 percent of the retail industry's annual sales.

Despite an improving economy, high food prices and stagnant wages are still affecting on shoppers.

CEOs at Target and Toys R Us said they saw shoppers not just concentrated on the doorbuster items but throwing in extra items in their carts. Macy's CEO Terry Lundgren told The Associated Press that he's hoping lower gas prices will help spending.