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'Tis The Season To Spend

At New York's Manhattan mall, Ronnette Summers, who started shopping at 7a.m. Friday, was back for more. And is she done? "No," she laughed while telling CBS News Correspondent Randall Pinkston about her shopping experience.

It was Saturday, the day after Black Friday, when most shoppers don't have to push and punch their way into the stores. But Friday's crowds and, most importantly, the money they spent were good news for retailers.

Visa says consumers began their holiday shopping in November and "hit the malls in force" Friday.

Angela Starke of BET Nightly News notes that, "The National Retail Federation estimates 130 million consumers will shop this weekend."

The federation projects that total sales, after restaurant and auto sales are excluded, will increase 4.5 percent for the November-December period. That would be less than the 5.1 percent gain of a year earlier.

Analysts anticipate strong sales this holiday season.

Burt Flickinger, a retail analyst, told Pinkston, "Retailers should be up 5 to 7 percent yesterday versus the forecast, which was 4 per cent. So probably the best in a decade."

Despite economic worries - like higher prices for gasoline and utilities - surveys show many shoppers are more optimistic -which usually translates into more spending.

Expecting strong demand, retailers have stocked up and are offering deep discounts earlier then ever

The only cloud on the horizon, how families like the Molinas will pay for it.

While the Molinas plan to stick to a Christmas budget, the Sumpters don't have a budget

When asked why her husband plans to spend more and she wants to spend the same, Diane Sumpter said, "Because I pay the bills and watch the budget."

Still, Will Valentine, a Visa spokesman, in an Associated Press interview, said there are signs consumers are spending responsibly. Valentine says Americans spent a lot on so-called Black Friday, but they didn't get all their holiday shopping done.

If this turns out to be a robust shopping season, analysts say retailers may end up paying a price later. "We're anticipating a real retail recession starting in '05 going into '06 because consumers are really cash and credit constrained," said Flickinger.

Translation: consumers will be tapped out on credit and short of cash. But that comes later. For now, for many, tis the season to spend.