The National Retail Federation's 2008 Black Friday Weekend survey released Sunday afternoon projected that more than 172 million shoppers will have visited stores and websites from Thursday through Sunday, up from 147 million shoppers last year.

Shoppers spent an average of $372.57 during the four-day weekend, up 7.2% over last year’s $347.55. Total spending reached an estimated $41.0 billion.

“Pent-up demand on electronics and clothing, plus unparalleled bargains on this season’s hottest items helped drive shopping all weekend,” said NRF President and CEO Tracy Mullin. “Holiday sales are not expected to continue at this brisk pace, but it is encouraging that Americans seem excited to go shopping again.”

Friday was clearly the busiest day of the weekend with 73.6 million people hitting stores and websites for sales. Though traffic did subside after Friday, retailers were also buoyed by two-day sales as 56.9 million people shopped on Saturday, up from 48.3 million last year, while another 26.2 million people planned to shop on Sunday.

Thanksgiving Day also continues to increase in importance as the number of people who shopped on Thursday was 16.2 million, up 48% from last year.

The survey found that 23.3 % of shoppers were at stores by 5am while more than half (57.6%) were at stores by 9am indicating that bargains will drive consumers to change their shopping habits. Deep discounting by department stores also apparently worked as 43% of respondents said they visited a traditional department store, up from 38.7% a year earlier.

Gift card purchasing dropped 10% with 18.7% of shoppers purchasing a gift card over the weekend, down from 21.0 % last year. NRF continues to project that holiday sales will rise 2.2 % this year to $470.4 billion.  

For estimates of how many respondents bought sporting goods and other survey details, members of the SportsOneSource network can read today's edition of Sports Executive Weekly.