To avoid the season's crowds at Hesperia's largest retailer, don't be an early bird or last-minute shopper.


"The day after Thanksgiving is really popular," especially for DVDs, music and videos, said Michelle Gautschi, executive team leader at SuperTarget off Main Street. "You'll see that increase come just a few days before Christmas."


Across the country, the holiday shopping season turned out to be two seasons: the Black Friday binge and a last-minute surge.


Together, they added up to decent sales gains for retailers. And the doldrums in-between showed how shoppers have learned to wait for the discounts they know will come.


"The days that the American consumer gets excited about 25 percent off are over," said C. Britt Beemer, chairman of America's Research Group. "Shoppers are keeping their eye on the ball for the big sales events."


To help smooth out the flow of customers and to turn some into repeat holiday shoppers the Target here used text messages to tell customers of special one-day deals.


"They were coming in multiple times to get their shopping done," said executive team leader Kay Barnette.


In November, shopping spending rose 4.1 percent. And from Dec. 1 to Dec. 24, it rose 4.7 percent compared with the same period last year, according to research firm ShopperTrak. A 4 percent increase is considered a healthy season.


The higher sales are good news for the economy, because they show shoppers were willing to fund a holiday splurge despite high unemployment and other lingering economic woes. Consumer spending, including major items such as health care, accounts for 70 percent of the economy.


Heading into the season, stores were nervous that shoppers would be tight-fisted. Many officially opened the season with discounts on TVs and toys that started as early as Thanksgiving Day. Consumers came out in droves, resulting in record spending.


Then the frenzy tapered off. A mild winter and the fact that Christmas fell on a Sunday encouraged people to wait until the last minute and accentuated the peaks and valleys of spending.


Stores started to push more discounts to get shoppers to spend in the finale. In fact, retailers' promotional emails from Dec. 18 to Dec. 22 spiked 34 percent, compared with the same period a year ago, according to Responsys, which tracks email activity from more than 100 merchants.


The Hesperia SuperTarget saw a lot of this season's hot toys Lalaloopsy rag dolls, Monster High dolls and Leapfrog Leapster electronic educational handheld devices and electronics popular with all ages, like the Kindle, iPod and iPad going home with customers. But a more traditional gift also made a comeback:


"A huge increase in bikes," Gautschi said.


"I think it was a really strong season. Compared to last season, I think it was much ... smoother," she said. "The guests were really wonderful, of course, and our team did a wonderful job managing it."


The Associated Press contributed to this report.


Beau Yarbrough may be reached at (760) 956-7108 or at beau@HesperiaStar.com. Follow us on Facebook at Facebook.com/Hesperia.Star.