The Super Bowl of shopping had an early start again this year, but the game isn't over yet.
Early numbers aren't out yet on how many shoppers headed to stores on Thanksgiving. But it's expected that more than three times the number of people who shopped on Thanksgiving will venture out to shop on the day after the holiday known as Black Friday.
Sabrina Rajkumar, 36, a writer from New York, started shopping with her stepmom at Macy's at 7:30 p.m. on Thanksgiving and was just wrapping up at 5:30 a.m. Friday. She found a $50 bedding set and a dress for her niece marked down to $25 from $74 and Godiva chocolates for $8.
"I'm from New York and I've never done Black Friday before," she said. "We just wanted to experience the madness."
She said she didn't think she'd like it since she usually buys personalized gifts at places like Etsy, but she had fun. A highlight was free samples of espresso from machines on sale.
"It was crazy, not as crazy as I expected, but there were still a lot of folks there up to the wee hours," she said.
Overall, the National Retail Federation expected about 30 million to shop on Thanksgiving, compared with 99.7 million on Black Friday. Overall, the trade group estimates about 135.8 million people will be shopping during the four-day weekend, compared with 133.7 million last year. And it expects sales overall for November and December to rise 3.7 percent to $630.5 billion compared with the same period last year.
But people may not be in the mood to shop much this year. Unemployment has settled into a healthy 5 percent rate, but shoppers still grapple with stagnant wages that are not keeping pace with rising daily costs like rent. And years later, they still insist on the deep discounts they got used to retailers offering during the recession.
Here are the big themes emerging on Black Friday:
HELLO, CAN YOU HEAR ME?
For the first time, there's expected to be more people visiting retailers' web sites through their smartphones than on desktop computers or tablets during the first weekend of the holiday shopping season that begins on Thanksgiving Day.
Mobile traffic during the five-day start to what is typically the busiest shopping period of the year is expected to reach 56.9 percent of total traffic, up from 48.5 percent last year, according to IBM Watson
NO ONE WILL START A FIGHT OVER ANYTHING, REALLY
Yet again, trend experts say there's no single item that's making shoppers run to stores. Perhaps that's why some shoppers experienced lighter crowds.
Ron Waxman, 51, a sports agent from New York, was able to shop with ease on Black Friday morning and find a nearby parking spot at 2 a.m.
"It's quiet very quiet," he said. "This is dead for Black Friday.'
Toys R Us CEO Dave Brandon said the lines at the stores weren't quite as long as last year for the 5 p.m. opening on Thanksgiving, but the traffic built throughout the night. He declined to give any more details on sales and traffic but said that he saw substantial growth in online sales.
IT'S CHEAP TO GET WARM
Heavy sweaters and winter coats piled up at department stores and specialty chains heading into the Black Friday weekend.
Unseasonably warm weather and a shift in changing shopping habits toward experiences like spas have limited shoppers' appetite for such clothing. So plenty of stores like Macy's, Nordstrom and Dick's Sporting Goods say they plan to further mark down excess goods.
TOYS ARE GETTING PRICEY
Prices are climbing for toys as manufacturers pack lots of technology into them. Deborah Weinswig of the Fung Business Intelligence Center says in a recent report that prices of what the company considers the top 20 expected toys was nearly 36 percent higher than last year, with the average price of $64.99.
And there are plenty of toys that cost $100 or more, observed Toys R Us CEO Dave Brandon. He cited Fisher-Price's Smart Bear, which has a suggested price of $99.99, as an example.
YOU CAN STILL ORDER ONLINE AND GET IT TODAY
More retailers are taking on the challenge of same-day delivery. Amazon has been making an aggressive push to offer same-day delivery to people who've paid its $99 fee for Prime loyalty club membership. Start-up delivery service Deliv is working with Macy's, Kohl's, Express, Williams-Sonoma and other brick-and-mortar retailers to expand same-day delivery options.
Craft-selling site Etsy is working with Postmates for a holiday season pilot that will let some shoppers in New York City have items delivered to their door within hours for a flat fee of $20. Apple is also working with Postmates on same-day deliveries in New York and San Francisco.
And Uber in October launched UberRush service in New York, San Francisco and Chicago that lets small businesses offer same-day delivery.
IS YOUR NEW SWEATER TRENDING?
eBay's holiday heat map is an interactive map that shows what are the most popular gifts across the country. (THINK: Who's buying what and where?): https://www.ebayinc.com/holiday/
Wal-Mart workers and their supporters plan to protest outside the daughter of Sam Walton, the company's late founder. The protest outside her New York City apartment will conclude 15 days of fasting, organizers say. The number of days reflects the call for pay of $15 an hour and full-time work.
Organizers say more than 1,400 people will participate in the action nationwide.
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