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November 28, 2015

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Black Friday crowds thin at US malls

CROWDS were thin at US stores and shopping malls in the early hours of yesterday, initial spot checks showed, as shoppers responded to early Black Friday discounts with a mix of enthusiasm and caution.

Many shoppers headed out to stores on Thanksgiving evening, a month before Christmas, reflecting the new normal in US holiday shopping, which was traditionally kicked off the next day, Black Friday.

In an effort to attract the most eager holiday shoppers and fend off competition from Inc, US retailers have increasingly extended their holiday deals by opening stores on the evening of Thanksgiving.

“It’s still early, and from what we are seeing so far the crowds are good but not great,” Craig Johnson, president of Customer Growth Partners, said late on Thursday. The retail consultancy had 18 members studying customer traffic in different parts of the country.

Milagros Munez, 39, a law clerk, was shopping for toys at the Target store in New York’s Harlem neighborhood. “We actually came early this morning to miss the crowds. Now that some stores are open all night, I feel like more people go in the evening.”

The Macy’s Inc store at Water Tower Place mall in Chicago saw thin crowds in the early hours of yesterday after a fairly busy Thanksgiving evening, store associates said.

Nia Darrell, a 23-year-old student, was shopping for coats and handbags at the store with two friends.

“I shopped online yesterday and picked up most of what I wanted,” she said. “I’m out because Black Friday is more like a tradition but the discounts are similar even online this year.”

Shoppers in the US spent over US$1 billion online, up 22 percent over last year, between midnight and 5pm Eastern Time on Thursday, according to the Adobe Digital Index, which tracked 100 million visits to 4,500 US retail sites.

Many stores around the country were full on Thanksgiving evening. Local media reported brawling shoppers at a packed Kentucky mall on Thursday evening, forcing a police officer to intervene and break up the fight.

Early Black Friday discounts at stores and online included buy one get 50 percent off on the second “Star Wars” toys at Target Corp, US$200 off quadcopter drones at Best Buy, and a 50-inch Samsung smart TV for US$499 at Wal-Mart.

Around 20 percent of holiday shopping is set to be done over the Thanksgiving weekend this year, analysts said.


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