SHAFAQNA (International Shia News Association) The traditional scrum of sharp elbows was notably less intense on Black Friday in the US this year.
The crowds, gathering at the US’s big shopping centres, appeared to have exhausted some of their shopping enthusiasm on Thursday.
As last year, many retailers had opened their doors early to try to pull shoppers in ahead of rivals.
“The consumer clearly enjoys shopping on Thanksgiving,” said Target’s chief executive, Brian Cornell.
And, when opening the New York Stock Exchange for Friday’s shortened day of trading, he welcomed the way the holiday season “has moved from an event on Black Friday morning to a multi-day event.”
Many shoppers headed straight to the shops whilst still digesting their Thanksgiving turkey on Thursday, forming queues outside Macy’s by 6pm on what is becoming known as “grey Thursday”.
But if footfall was subdued, online sales came to the fore.
Wal-Mart said Thursday was its second-highest online sales day ever after last year’s Cyber Monday, the first Monday in December when many people order items they’d like to arrive in time for Christmas.
BestBuy’s website went offline after what the company said was “a concentrated spike in mobile traffic.”
The hope for many retailers is that the slowly improving US economy, combined with lower petrol prices, could push consumers to buy more than they have in recent memory.
Black Friday has been the top sales day of the year since 2005, according to ShopperTrak which tracks data on stores globally, beating into second place the Saturday before Christmas when last-minute shoppers stock up on Christmas gifts.
However, that could change this year as Thanksgiving shopping and online sales eat into Black Friday’s peak performance.
Shift to labour
The earlier start to holiday shopping has placed even more focus on the plight of workers who must often leave their families in order to help shops open on Thanksgiving.
Outside a Wal-Mart in northern New Jersey, nearly a hundred members of the OUR Wal-Mart campaign – a coalition of unions and Wal-Mart employees – protested what they said were unfair working conditions at the nation’s largest retailer.
Surrounded by dozens of police officers in the brisk cold, they chanted slogans like “Wal-Mart, Wal-Mart you’re no good, treat your workers like you should” and waved banners.
Inside the store, however, Wal-Mart representatives disputed their claims.
“They’re really not representative of our associates at all. Our associates are in here working hard and they’re excited to be here. This is the most fun day of all,” a Wal-Mart spokesperson, Bill Wertz, told the BBC.
And as for shoppers whose habits the protestors were hoping to influence?
“It does affect my shopping affect my shopping, I told myself I wasn’t going to purchase too much,” says Gary Philip, a shopper walking into the store.
“But,” he added, “I couldn’t resist on getting a tree for a better price.”