Video: Buying frenzy on Black Friday

  1. Closed captioning of: Buying frenzy on Black Friday

    >>> good evening, we learned a new term this year, you might have heard it, some people were trotting out gray thursday to describe the stores open on thanksgiving day to get a jump on the shopping season that normally begins with black friday today, tonight. and all over the country. while the gray was meant to show the kind of retailing gray area , the black in black friday of course, means in the black positive sales to start off the season. there was a time when this day every year was not the same as injuries, incidents and riots, but it has happened again as americans get all worked up into a shopping frenzy. we begin tonight with courtney reagan at the mall in fairfield in dayton, ohio, good evening.

    >> reporter: good evening to you, brian, today marks the unofficial start to the holiday shopping season and it will be one of the longest compared to the past several years. with thanksgiving falling so early, there are two extra days between thanksgiving and christmas, and retailers were hoping that the consumers use the extra time to shop and to spend. after that big thanksgiving meal, this is how shoppers got their exercise. racing down the aisles for early black friday deals.

    >> oh, it saves a lot of money.

    >> i don't know what i can do damage with, but i'm going to go find out.

    >> reporter: braving the lines, the crowds, the fights to the cash register . here in kansas, the girls screamed for the gates to open as if they were at a rock concert . the frenzy started early this year with retailers like walmart, toys "r" us and target, opening their doors on thanksgiving day , hoping to get the 147 million shoppers spending before they go elsewhere. the decision to start black friday early sparked a controversy with target employees posting on-line petitions against working the holiday. and walmart workers protesting this week at dozens of stores as part of a nationwide walkout.

    >> we are.

    >> reporter: walmart released a statement calling the protests made for tv events, saying the large majority of protesters are not even walmart workers. the stakes are especially high, because black friday kicks off the most important shopping season of the year.

    >> on average, we estimate that black friday weekend sales can account for up to 10 or 11% of all holiday sales.

    >> reporter: sales are expected to grow a little over 4% this year, slightly below last year's 5 or 6%. on-line sales are expected to stay strong, jumping 12% from last year. stores have been taking advantage of the public's web savvy by offering promotions that lure shoppers in the stores. early signs show that sales are strong.

    >> we had the best black friday ever at walmart.

    >> reporter: with shoppers snatching up electronics, toys and unexpected items. walmart sold more than 1.8 million towels. whatever they're buying, retailers just hope shoppers keep coming back until christmas day . consumer confidence has been improving over the last several months. and the economists hope it will translate into strong holiday sales. consumer spending makes up 70% of u.s. gdp , so strong holiday sales are crucial for economic growth in the fourth quarter.

    >> courtney reagan, busy in dayton, ohio.

NBC News and news services
updated 11/23/2012 7:07:41 AM ET 2012-11-23T12:07:41

Hordes of shoppers descended on stores across the country in the ritual known as Black Friday after many major retailers moved their openings into Thanksgiving night.

At the Mall of America, outside Minneapolis, shoppers thronged the stores to load up on goods early Friday but the situation was under control, NBC News’ Jay Gray reported.

Stores typically open in the wee hours of the morning on the day after Thanksgiving, named Black Friday because it is traditionally when they turn a profit for the year.

But this year, stores such as Target and Toys R Us opened as early as Thanksgiving evening.

That led holiday shoppers to ask themselves a tough question: Deal with the crowds now or later?

Image: Shoppers at a Target Highland, Ind.
Tasos Katopodis  /  Getty Images
Shoppers scour a Target on Thanksgiving night in Highland, Ind., for deals.

'I only shop for sales'
About 11,000 shoppers were in lines wrapped around Macy's flagship store in New York City's Herald Square when it opened Thursday night.

Avoid early bird remorse: 10 Black Friday gadget do's and dont's

Joan Riedewald, a private aide for the elderly, and her four children ages six to 18, where among them. By the time they showed up at the department store, Riedewalde had already spent about $100 at Toys R Us and planned to spend another $500 at Macy's before heading to Old Navy.

"I only shop for sales," she said.

A few hours later at about 3:30 a.m. ET at a nearby Toys R Us in New York's Times Square, the scene was a bit calmer.

Elizabeth Garcia, 17, a sales rep from the city's Bronx borough, was shopping for toys for her three children ages three, five and seven. She said she specifically decided on the later shopping start to avoid the crowds on Thanksgiving. She believes that was the best decision: Last year, she almost got into a fight over a Tinker Bell couch. But this year was much calmer.

"This year I wasn't about to kill people," Garcia said.

Retailers are hoping that the earlier openings will help boost sales this holiday season. It is unclear how many shoppers took advantage of the earlier openings.

Video: Score best Black Friday deals at Staples, Gap, more

But about 17 percent of shoppers said earlier this month that they planned to shop at stores that opened on Thanksgiving, according to an International Council of Shopping Centers-Goldman Sachs survey of 1,000 consumers.

"I think it's better earlier. People are crazier later at midnight. And I get tired at midnight," Renee Ruhl, 52, a hotel worker, said at a Target in Orlando, Fla., where she was already heading back to her car with an air hockey game loaded in her shopping cart at 9:30 p.m., 2-1/2 hours before the chain opened last year.

Overall, it is estimated that sales on Black Friday will be up 3.8 percent to $11.4 billion this year.

Adding convenience
The earlier hours are an effort by stores to make shopping as convenient as possible for Americans, who they fear will not spend freely during the two-month holiday season in November and December because of economic uncertainty.

At the same time, Americans have grown more comfortable shopping on websites that offer cheap prices and the convenience of being able to buy something from smartphones, laptops and tablet computers just about anywhere.

'Watching the insanity' of Black Friday — on Thursday

That has put added pressure on brick-and-mortar stores, which can make up to 40 percent of their annual revenue during the holiday shopping season, to give consumers a compelling reason to leave their homes.

Retailers have been trying everything they can to lure consumers into stores.

Some stores tested the earlier hours last year, but this year more retailers opened their doors late on Thanksgiving or earlier on Black Friday

At the Target on Elston Avenue on Chicago's Northwest side, known as one of the highest-volume Target stores in the entire chain, the $25 Dirt Devil vacuum that normally goes for $39.99 was gone, while there were still several large televisions. Items such as $2 towels were selling well, so were blankets, kids' slippers and pajamas.

Video: $586 billion holiday shopping boost expected for economy

Store team leader Lee Crum said that it looked like people who were there for the 9 p.m. event were staying longer.

"These are the folks that are Christmas shopping, you can see it's a family event," he said. "At midnight it was one person, coming in for one item."

In addition to expanding their hours, many retailers also are offering free layaways and shipping, matching the cheaper prices of online rivals and updating their mobile shopping apps with more information.

Image: Best Buy employees participate in a group huddle in Naples, Fla.
Spencer Platt  /  Getty Images
Best Buy employees participate in a group huddle as they prepare to open the store in Naples, Fla., on Thanksgiving.

From turkey to the stores
Some holiday shoppers seemed to find stores' earlier hours appealing.

"I ate my turkey dinner and came right here," said Rasheed Ali, a 23-year-old student in New York City who bought a 50-inch Westinghouse TV for $349 and a Singer sewing machine for $50 at a Target in New York City's East Harlem neighborhood that opened at 9 p.m. on Thanksgiving. "Then I'm going home and eating more."

Not everybody was happy with Black Friday starting earlier.

Mike Labounty, 34, Lyndonville, Vt., was shopping on Thursday night for 32-inch Emerson televisions and other items on sale at the Walmart in Littleton, N.H., with his partner, Darcy Mitchell.

"I think it should go back to Friday," he said. "It breaks up families. Just look at us -- our kids are with their grandparents and they should be with us on Thanksgiving, but we're here getting them a TV."

Protests
Some workers were also expected to protest the expanded hours.

Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, has been one of the biggest targets of protests against holiday hours. Many of Wal-Mart's stores are open 24 hours, but the company offered early bird specials that once were reserved for Black Friday at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving instead.

The issue is part of a broader campaign against the company's treatment of workers that is being waged by a union-backed group called OUR Walmart, which includes former and current workers. The group is staging demonstrations and walkouts at hundreds of stores on Black Friday.

For their part, retailers say they are giving shoppers what they want.

Dave Tovar, a Wal-Mart spokesman, said that the discounter learned from shoppers that they want to start shopping right after Thanksgiving dinner. Then, they want to have time to go to bed before they wake up to head back out to the stores.

Still, Tovar said that Wal-Mart works to accommodate its workers' requests for different working hours. "We spent a lot of time talking to them, trying to figure out when would be the best time for our events," he said.

NBC's Jay Gray, The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

Photos: Americans line up for Black Friday

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  1. A crowd gathers as security guards break up a fight between shoppers waiting in line just as the doors open for Black Friday shopping Nov. 22 at Target in Bowling Green, Ky. (Alex Slitz / Daily News via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. People carrying shopping bags wait to cross the street in Herald Square on Nov. 23 in New York. Black Friday, the day following the Thanksgiving Day holiday, has traditionally been the busiest shopping day in the United States. (Keith Bedford / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Shoppers rush to grab electric griddles and slow cookers on sale for $8 shortly after the doors opened at a J.C. Penney store Nov. 23 in Las Vegas. Black Friday got a jump start this year as many stores opened just as families were finishing up Thanksgiving dinner. Stores are experimenting with ways to compete with online rivals like Amazon.com that can offer holiday shopping deals at any time and on any day. (Julie Jacobson / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Shoppers on New York's Fifth Avenue patronize a street vendor offering $5 jewelry on Nov. 23. (Richard Drew / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Jasmine Britton, 18, of Huntington Beach rests while shopping at the Los Cerreitos Center mall in Cerritos, Calif. on Nov. 23. (Bret Hartman / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Shoppers wait in a checkout line Nov. 23 at a Kmart store in Braintree, Mass. (Allison Joyce / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Shoppers crowd the first floor of Macy's department store in New York on Friday, Nov. 23, after the store opened at midnight. (Stan Honda / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Teaje Price, left, and Kristi Marshall celebrate as they enter a Best Buy store in Mayfield Heights, Ohio, on Nov. 23. They planned on buying a television and a Blu-ray player. (Tony Dejak / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Chris Dispenza of Vicksburg, Miss., tries to keep his daughter Jayde Dispenza, 8, awake as they wait to enter a Best Buy store Friday morning in Jackson, Miss. The Dispenzas waited in line for a couple of hours before entering the store after midnight. (Rogelio V. Solis / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. A child sits and waits with a guitar at a Macy's store in New York on Nov. 23. (Carlo Allegri / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Protesters supporting workers' rights demonstrate outside a Walmart store in Chicago on Nov. 23. (John Gress / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Victoria Wachowiak pushes a shopping cart with a 50-inch televison at Target in Burbank, Calif., on Thursday, Nov. 22. The shopping frenzy known as "Black Friday" kicked off earlier this year, with retailers like Target Corp and Toys R Us moving their openings to Thursday night. (Jonathan Alcorn / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Target Manager Jay Fitzgerald welcomes shoppers as they flood his store in Harbison, S.C. Fitzgerald, who recently retired from the Air Force after 27 years of service, took over the Harbison Target just three and a half weeks ago. (C. Michael Bergen / Zuma Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Best Buy employees participate in a group huddle as they prepare to open the store on Nov. 22 in Naples, Fla. (Spencer Platt / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Customers shop for televisions at Target in Burbank, Calif., on Nov. 22. (Jonathan Alcorn / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Shoppers wait in line for the 8 p.m. opening of the Times Square Toys R Us store in the lead-up to Black Friday in New York on Nov. 22. (John Minchillo / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Dora Hurtado waits in line at a Toys R Us store in Pembroke Pines, Fla., Nov. 22, 2012. (J Pat Carter / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Customers wait in line for door-buster deals at a Kmart in Chicago on Nov. 22. Kmart was the first major retailer nationwide to kick off pre-Black Friday shopping on Thanksgiving morning at 6 a.m. (John Konstantaras / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Mercy and Ozzy Dominquez try to stay warm as they wait outside a Best Buy store in Pembroke Pines, Fla., late Thursday. (J Pat Carter / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Bargain hunters grab video games and DVDs at the 8 p.m. opening of Wal-Mart's 'Black Friday' sale on Thanksgiving Day in Fairfax, Va., Nov. 22, 2012. Though Black Friday has traditionally been the day after Thanksgiving, a new trend that industry watchers label 'Black Friday creep' has pushed the opening of the Christmas shopping season to Thanksgiving Day. (Jim Lo Scalzo / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. A cashier checks the authenticity of $100 bills at the register of a Toys R Us store in Manchester, N.H., Nov. 22. (Jessica Rinaldi / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. A boy carries a stack of toys inside a Toys R Us store in Manchester, N.H., Nov. 22. (Jessica Rinaldi / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. Customers check a store flyer as they line up outside a Toys R Us store in Times Square in New York City, Nov. 22. (Carlo Allegri / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. A shopper from South America stands with carts loaded with clothes from the Tommy Hilfiger store at Miami's Dolphin Mall on Nov. 22. (J Pat Carter / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. Shoppers file into a Target store in Chicago, Nov. 22. (John Gress / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
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