NEW YORK (AP) -- A firm that analyzes customer traffic says stores saw a solid increase in sales for the four-day start to the holiday season, as heavy Thanksgiving shopping offset a drop in Black Friday sales.

Chicago-based-ShopperTrak said late Tuesday that foot traffic was up 8.2 percent for the four-day weekend, starting with Thanksgiving, while total sales rose 2.7 percent to $22 billion, compared with the same period a year ago. The sales pace is higher than the 1.7 percent seen last year.

This year retailers had their earliest start ever to the holiday shopping season, as major stores including Target (NYSE:TGT) and Sears (NASDAQ:SHLDQ) opened on Thanksgiving evening.

ShopperTrak counts foot traffic and its own proprietary sales numbers from 40,000 retail outlets across the U.S.

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