Black Friday may not be the retail frenzy it once was, but if the 2016 version is any indication, shoppers are still giving the day plenty of attention – while having some fun along the way.
Many pushed themselves to shop on little to no sleep, as stores like Macy’s, Walmart, Target, Best Buy and more opened Thursday evening with special deals. Kohl’s never closed and stayed open 30 straight hours.
After hitting Walmart on Thursday, Antuan Smith of Charlotte was back at it at 6:15 a.m. on Friday, buying a 55-inch smart TV for $249 at the Best Buy at the Metropolitan. He was third in line when the doors opened at 8 a.m.
“Most people forget this store is here, being downtown,” said Smith, who bought the TV as a Christmas gift for his mom.
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Tammy Sheffield and Jessica Tucker didn’t bother taking a nap after starting their shopping adventures at 2 p.m. on Thursday. They took a food break at Steak and Shake before parking their SUV at SouthPark mall at 2 a.m. Friday, in advance of Belk’s 6 a.m. opening. Early-bird shoppers received gift cards.
Tucker voiced her approval as the line grew: “I like seeing crazy people.”
At the Toys R Us near Concord Mills mall, Balance Bikes, Hot Wheels and PJ Masks (heroic cartoon characters) filled sisters-in-law Lindsay and Andrea Delgrosso’s cart. They shopped for several nephews and a holiday family they adopted with three more boys.
“I think it’s exciting,” Andrea Delgrosso said of Black Friday shopping. “It kind of sets off the Christmas season.”
“And it really is a good way to save money,” Lindsay Delgrosso said.
Eye on Amazon
Some brick-and-mortar chains are counting on heavier discounts and a bigger online selection to help keep up with Amazon this holiday season, according to Bloomberg News.
Chains are touting larger price cuts than in 2015 – a gamble that maintaining market share is worth squeezing margins. Based on a Market Track study of holiday circulars, Walmart is offering an average discount of 39 percent, compared with 35 percent last year. At Target, the price cuts grew to 38 percent from 36 percent.
“With the lines between traditional brick and mortar and e-commerce continuing to blur, the need to make a big splash during large retail events like Black Friday is significant,” Traci Gregorski, senior vice president of marketing at Market Track, told Bloomberg in an email. “The ease of comparison shopping across channels is creating a situation that puts a definitive advantage in the consumers’ hands.”
Wal-Mart and others also are steering customers toward online deals, rather than just physical stores. While the chain still offers Black Friday specials at its supercenters, the day marks the beginning of a streak of online promotions called “Cyber Week.” Wal-Mart has tripled its e-commerce selection to 23 million products this year, aiming to better compete with Amazon.
The world’s largest retailer said in a statement Friday that Thanksgiving was one of its top online-shopping days this year and that about 70 percent of the traffic to its website came from mobile devices.
Target, meanwhile, is offering 15 percent off almost everything in its stores and website for two days: Sunday and Monday. The aggressive discounts come at a cost. When Target slashed prices last holiday season, its profit margin slipped to 27.9 percent from 28.5 percent.
The retailer said that Target.com saw double-digit growth on Thanksgiving, marking its biggest day ever, driven by deals on electronics. Televisions, Apple Inc. products and wearable gadgets were among the top sellers.
All told, the National Retail Federation estimates that about 137.4 million consumers will make purchases in stores or online over the four-day weekend that started on Thanksgiving. But the amount that Americans have spent has declined in the past three years, slipping 26 percent from 2013 to an average of $299.60 per person in 2015.
Spending during the overall season – November and December – is still expected to grow 3.6 percent to $655.8 billion, the NRF estimates. That’s a sign that holiday purchases are spreading out over a longer time frame.
With Americans shifting their purchases online, the urgency of offering deals on Black Friday itself has diminished. EBay made a plea for consumers to start shopping on their phones the day before Thanksgiving, christening the event “Mobile Wednesday.”
Still, for some, the appeal of Black Friday was hard to resist.
Tashayiah Ross, 10, Armani Conrad, 9, and their aunt Felishia McRae were first in line at Belk SouthPark, arriving at 4:30 a.m.
“They always have good prices and dresses,” McRae said. “I couldn’t sleep, just waiting to see what they have.”
Bloomberg News and The Associated Press contributed.