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At this time last year, the Backstreet Boys’ "Black & Blue" debuted at #1 with more than 1.6 million in first-week sales, followed by the second week of the Beatles’ "1," which sold almost 700k, and "Now Vol. 5," with 450k-plus moved over the counter.
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The record industry, like the rest of the slumping post-Sept. 11 U.S. economy, is hoping there’s nothing like the holidays to get consumers flexing their credit cards again.

And while business was generally flat and mall traffic down, music retailers were thankful for small favors, with Creed’s Weathered on Wind-up leading the way, garnering a #1 debut and just under 900k in first-week sales, easily topping the 470k posted by Garth Brooks last week. Virgin’s Now Vol. 8 debuted at #2 with almost 600k in sales, while Kid Rock and Pink also bowed in the Top 10. Brooks, Britney Spears, Enya, Enrique Iglesias, Linkin Park and Nickelback also showed some staying power, while UTV’s Now Xmas, the perennial Mannheim Steamroller, NSYNC, Barbra Streisand and Andrea Bocelli made impressive sales gains.

Twenty-two albums sold more than 100k this week, compared to 15 last week. Sales were up across-the-board, with this week’s Top 50 albums selling a total of 51% more than those on last week’s chart. And with Thanksgiving coming early this year, retailers have an extra week before Christmas, which could be a crucial factor in improving the holiday sales outlook. Still, the retail jury remains divided.

Tower’s Bob Feterl preferred to see the glass as half-full, pointing out his 32 Southwestern regional stores were up $300k and 14% over the comparable period last year.

Wherehouse Music President Larry Gaines wasn’t as enthused: "No titles are hitting their numbers. The only thing drawing customers into the stores is if we’re giving something away, but $9.99 is not the answer."

Best Buy and Circuit City both held special, limited time promotions in which records were discounted below $10.

At this time last year, the Backstreet BoysBlack & Blue debuted at #1 with more than 1.6 million in first-week sales, followed by the second week of the Beatles1, which sold almost 700k, and Now Vol. 5, with 450k-plus moved over the counter.

Big chains like Wal-Mart apparently thrived, with the retailer reporting a record for one-day sales on Friday (11/23), bringing in more than $1.25 billion. Online retailers like Amazon.com, Yahoo! and Kmart’s Bluelight.com all saw 50-75% gains.

Best-sellers included Harry Potter merch, video game consoles, DVD players and battery-operated vibrators.

On the film front, AOLTW’s Harry Potter earned a record $83.5 million in five days, followed by Disney’s Monsters Inc. at $33.1 million, but overall, box office grosses were down 11%, to $157 million, from Thanksgiving a year ago. Last year, Universal’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas topped the list with a second-week gross of $52.1 million.

The Thanksgiving weekend isn’t necessarily the ultimate indicator of how retailers will perform during the holidays. In the past few years, it has accounted for less than 10% of overall holiday sales, but it does show consumers’ willingness to spend.

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