Slow start to Black Friday after Thursday evening launch
Shoppers across the US are on the hunt for deals after stores opened for what is still one of the busiest days of the year, even as the start of the Christmas season edges earlier.
Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, used to launch the holiday season, but the competition to grab customers first is keen.
Stores like Macy's, Walmart and Target opened on Thursday evening in what they hope will be a new holiday tradition as they try to fight off competition from Amazon.
After what appeared to be a strong turnout for Thanksgiving sales, some early morning reports indicated that traffic to malls was slower on Black Friday than last year as retailers are spreading out deals throughout the week.
"It was a really good start. But I have never seen Black Friday morning so calm," said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst at NPD Group, a market research firm, who visited malls on Long Island. He still believes the weekend's sales will be up over last year because shoppers did a lot of buying, including flat-screen TVs.
Walmart, which started its Black Friday sales at 6pm on Thursday, said shoppers were embracing technology products.
Spokesman Steve Bratspies said in addition to Black Friday favourites like televisions and toys, shoppers were looking for drones, virtual reality products and hoverboards.
Walmart started its online sale just after midnight on Thanksgiving, three hours earlier than last year. It reported on Friday that 70% of traffic to its website came from mobile devices.
This weekend is crucial to set the tone for the Christmas season. Around 137 million people plan to or are considering doing their shopping during the Thanksgiving weekend, according to a survey conducted for the National Retail Federation. That includes online and store shopping.
Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, vies with the Saturday before Christmas as the busiest shopping day of the year.
The NRF, the nation's largest retail group, expects holiday sales to rise 3.6% for November and December, better than the 3% growth seen for those months last year. That excludes car sales, fuel and restaurant receipts, but includes online spending and other non-store sales such as catalogue spending.