For many retailers, this past week was the beginning of the biggest shopping season of the year. It was the beginning of a stretch where merchants make the bulk of their sales and rely on it to push them into the black. This year is no different, and with more companies opening on Thanksgiving instead of Black Friday, many point of sale systems found themselves working overtime.

According to the National Retail Federation, the number of unique shoppers in the four day time frame that makes up Black Friday weekend (Thursday through Sunday) topped 141 million people. That is up from the 139 million that came out last year. With repeat customers, the number of people waiting in line at the cash register increased to 248 million, up from 247 million in 2012.

As for the individual days, Thanksgiving and Black Friday have the most to talk about. Many stores decided to open on Turkey Day and consumers took notice. Foot traffic on that day increased 27 percent as nearly 45 million people hit the stores. Black Friday continued to be the dominate sales day. Last year, 89 million people went out looking for deals, and this year that increased to 92 million.

The trade group also conducted a survey during the weekend which found that 131 million adults did or said they planned to do some shopping in a brick-and-mortar location during the weekend. The study also found that more than 75 percent of Americans aged 18 to 34 were likely to either fight the crowds or head online to take advantage of some deals during the weekend.

"By most accounts, it looked like a very busy weekend," Shawn DuBravac, chief economist of the Consumer Electronics Association, said in a conference call with the Los Angeles Times.

Forecast shows no signs of holiday shopping letdown

Shoppers still have Cyber Monday to finish all of their holiday season kickoff shopping, and the forecasts show that strong numbers are ahead. According to a report by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), 40 percent of the population or about 126 million U.S. adults will have shopped for a holiday gift during this time. 

As for Cyber Monday itself, predictions show that 18 percent of consumers will be on mobile devices and smartphones to make purchases. That is the highest mark in three years.

"Consumers appear to have responded to retailers' strong push to get them in the stores and online early this year," said CEA chief economist and senior director of research Shawn DuBravac in a statement accompanying the report. "The dust is still settling, but early indications point to a weekend of record-breaking online sales and a healthy appetite for key tech products."

For merchants to be able to get through this shopping rush and handle a shorter than usual holiday season, they need to ensure their point of sale software system is ready for the challenge. This includes being integrated with e-commerce and inventory platforms to track product from any transaction. With the help of a retail solution provider, any organization can rest assured that businesses will be able to optimize every aspect of daily operations and stay ahead of consumer demand during the holiday season.