Before some Americans had even finished their Thanksgiving Day meals, people were lining up — some even camping — outside stores, ready to take advantage of Black Friday shopping deals.
Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, traditionally starts the holiday shopping season in the United States. It refers to the day when retailers turn a profit — going from “being in the red,” or being in debt, to being “in the black,” or making money.
In recent years, the shopping frenzy has grown. Black Friday now starts a four-day shopping weekend that includes Small Business Saturday and Sunday, during which shoppers are urged to make purchases at locally owned small businesses, and Cyber Monday, the biggest internet shopping day of the year.
Shoppers take advantage of Black Friday door buster deals at Macy's Herald Square, Nov. 24, 2016, in New York.
Shoppers line up early
Across the country, from Florida to Ohio to California, shoppers began lining up and camping outside stores that planned to open Thanksgiving Day with huge sales.
On Thursday, discount store Kmart opened its doors at 6 a.m., with other stores — including J.C. Penney, Best Buy and Target — opening throughout the day.
Shoppers at Macy’s flagship store in New York City rushed the gates as the doors opened for pre-Black Friday sales late Thursday afternoon. Macy’s said 16,000 people lined up before the store, located in Manhattan, opened at 5 p.m. (2200 UTC).
Many malls were opening late Thursday or in the predawn hours of Friday.
A pre-holiday survey by the National Retail Federation found nearly 136 million Americans, or nearly 60 percent of those surveyed, planned to shop over the Thanksgiving weekend. More than 183 million, or nearly 80 percent of those surveyed, planned to shop online on Cyber Monday.
Adobe Digital Insights, which tracks data, predicted U.S. Black Friday sales would top $3 billion, an 11.5 percent increase over last year, and Cyber Monday sales also would top $3 billion, a 9.5 percent increase over a year ago, according to Forbes.com.
The anxiety and stress felt by some people who have waited in line for hours before a store opens has led to some incidents in recent years, with shoppers storming the doors when they open, fights breaking out over the limited number of price-slashed items, and the brandishing of weapons by some shoppers.
Not the busiest sales day
Retailers have faced a backlash for their holiday hours, with some employees complaining that stores are putting profits before workers’ time spent with family. That has caused some retailers to rethink opening on Thanksgiving Day.
In a move that shocked retailers and shoppers, the nation’s largest mall, the Mall of America in Minnesota, announced earlier this month that it would be closed on Thanksgiving Day.
Black Friday used to be the busiest shopping day of the year in terms of sales. But Retailnext, which tracks retail shopping, said it will fall to the third-busiest shopping day, in terms of sales, in 2016.
They predict the Friday before Christmas, December 23, will be the busiest shopping day, followed by Saturday, December 17.
“As retailers have continued the trend to open more stores on Thanksgiving Day, it has pilfered away both sales and traffic from Black Friday,” Retailnext’s Shelley Kohan said. “This year, with Christmas falling on a Sunday, most shoppers will want to cut short their shopping early on Saturday, December 24, leaving the day before, Friday, as retail’s biggest opportunity for sales.”
Shoppers reach for television sets as they compete to purchase retail items on Black Friday at a store in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Nov. 24, 2016.
Black Friday around the world
Black Friday shopping, while attached to the Thanksgiving Day holiday in the U.S., has begun to spread to other countries.
In 2010, the online shopping site Amazon.com started Black Friday in Britain. Within a few short years, it saw long lines of people waiting for stores to open, and occasional fistfights over deeply discounted items.
France, Spain, Sweden, China and even Iran have adopted Black Friday shopping sales as well.