NEW YORK – It's easy to turn on their computers at home on the plates of the rest of turkey and take advantage of the Black Friday offerings that are currently offered by most online retailers.
But throughout the country, thousands of buyers wake up before dawn the day after Thanksgiving and bring their mobile devices with them to take part in America's most famous consumerist rituals.
Buyers march outside Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota, at 4am, and the crowd has grown to 3,000 with the door opening at 5am. In Ohio, a group of women was very determined, they booked a hotel room Thursday. night to get closer to the store. In New York City, a woman goes straight from a dance club to a department store in the middle of the night.
Many buyers say Black Friday's shopping is as much as watching it like about a doorbuster deal.
Kati Anderson said she stopped at Cumberland Mall in Atlanta Friday morning for discount clothing and also "people watching." Her friend, Katie Nasworthy, said she went to the mall rather than shop online because she likes to see Christmas decorations.
"It doesn't really feel like Christmas until now," said Kim Bryant, who considers the day the official start of the holiday shopping season, even though retailers have been offering offers for weeks. Bryant was shopping in a mall on the outskirts of Denver with his daughter and his daughter's friend, who lined up at 5:40 a.m., then ran inside when the door opened at 6am.
"We feel the need to run because everyone runs," said Bryant's daughter Kelly.
Brick-and-mortar stores have worked hard to prove that they can fight competition from the online giant Amazon. From Macy's to Target and Walmart, retailers combine their online shopping experience and stores with new tools such as digital maps on smartphones and more options for buyers to buy online and take in stores.
The Kohl application allows customers to take photos of products anywhere and find similar items in department stores. And customers, who are frustrated by the long payment line, can check out at Walmart and other stores with salespeople in the shop aisle.
The holiday shopping season presents a big test for the US economy, whose overall growth so far this year has relied on a boom in consumer spending. Americans increase their spending during the first half of 2018 at the strongest pace in four years, but retail sales have subsided recently and the pace of home purchases has fallen. Total sales during the following month will be a good indicator whether consumers only pause to take their breath or if they feel a little less optimistic about the economy in 2019.
The National Retail Federation, the largest retail trade group in the country, expects holiday retail sales in November and December – excluding cars, gasoline and restaurants – to increase by 4.8 percent compared to 2017 for a total of $ 720.89 billion. Sales growth marked a slowdown from last year of 5.3 percent, which was the biggest increase since 2010. But the numbers are still healthy.
The retail economy is also tilted towards online shopping. Over the past 12 months, purchases at non-store retailers such as Amazon jumped 12.1 percent. Meanwhile, sales at traditional department stores have slipped 0.3 percent. Adobe Analytics, which tracks online retail shopping, reported Thursday that Thanksgiving would reach a record $ 3.7 billion in online retail sales, up 29 percent from the same period last year.
"There are many online transactions so it's difficult to make a big effort to come to the store," said Laura Duncan, a 39-year-old preschool teacher and mother of three from Costa Mesa, California. He was attracted to the mall on Friday morning for transactions, and for quiet shopping without his children still sleeping.
Black Friday has morphed from one day when people wake up early to print a bouncer door to a full month of agreement. Many large stores, including Walmart, Best Buy, and Macy's, started their blockbuster transactions on Thanksgiving night, which had diluted the crowd Friday.
But some families stick to their Black Friday traditions.
"We boycotted shopping on Thursday; that's a family day. But Friday's experience was just for fun, "said Michelle Wise, shopping at Park Meadows Mall in Denver with her daughter, Ashleigh, 16, and Avery 14. They don't have a list of specific must-get items this year; they only enjoy time together.
Target reports that buyers buy large ticket items such as TVs, iPads and Apple watches. Among the most popular toy offers are Lego, L.O.L. Surprise from MGA Entertainment and Mattel's Barbie. It said gamers took video game consoles like the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
Others reported stumbling into more unclear savings. In a Cincinnati mall, Bethany Carrington printed an $ 29 all-in-one trimmer for her husband's hair needs and, for $ 17, "The biggest Potato Head I've ever seen."
At the same mall, Rhonda Ross and Cyndi Jenkins booked a hotel room for Thursday night to maximize their shopping experience. They knew they wanted to buy the Nintendo Switch for their 11-year-old son, but instead only planned to look around and spend time together. Every year, they leave children with their husbands and go out to shop.
"We are not abandoned people, buyers are die-hard," said Jenkins, a nurse from Lucasville, Ohio.
At midday Friday, there were no extensive reports of chaos inspired by a deal that had been at the center of Friday's black weapons battle on television discounts or stamps on coveted items.
Two people at the Alabama mall got into a fight, and one of them opened fire, shot another man and a 12-year-old boy, both of whom were taken to hospital due to injuries. Police shot and killed the gunman. Authorities have not said whether the incident was related to Black Friday spending or whether it originated from an unrelated dispute.
"It's really not crazy this morning," Clif Norwine said, as she looked out at the Dallas Galleria mall from the upstairs balcony. Norwine said he went out to Black Friday in the section for sales, but also for family traditions and people watching. The buyers below float peacefully, set to the holiday music soundtrack.
Associated Press writer Jeff Martin in Atlanta, Ryan Tarinelli in Dallas, Katie Foody in Denver, Angie Wang in Cincinnati, Amy Taxin from Costa Mesa, California, and Claire Galofaro in Louisville, Kentucky, also contributed to this report.