The Latest: Black Friday

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

Shoppers had a bit of a buying appetizer on Thanksgiving, but the question remains whether they'll feast on deals on the day after the holiday.

Big chains that include Macy's, J.C. Penney, Wal-Mart and Target opened their doors on the holiday for those who wanted to get their post-turkey shop on.

But the day after Thanksgiving, called Black Friday, is typically the biggest shopping day of the year. And for a decade, it had been considered the official start of the holiday buying season.

But as retailers increasingly have pushed opening times into Thanksgiving night, and discounting that used to be reserved for Black Friday into early November, analysts have questioned whether Black Friday is losing its cache.

Overall, the National Retail Federation estimates that about 135.8 million consumers will be shopping during the four-day weekend, compared with 133.7 million last year. The group also expects sales in November and December of this year to be $630.5 billion, up 3.7 percent from the last two months of the year in 2014.

Here's how the start of the holiday shopping season is playing out. All times are EST, unless otherwise specified. Check back often.

Thursday, 9 p.m.: Sneaky shopper

Julie Desireau snagged a $10 crock pot and the last $10 deep fryer at the Naperville, Illinois Wal-Mart and promptly hid them under a rack of women's flannel pajamas. Then the 29-year-old from Chicago called her husband, who was in the toy department with their cart, and told him to come pick her up.

"There's no way I'm going back there," she said.

—Sara Burnett, Naperville, Illinois

Thursday, 9 p.m.: Deals in the city that never sleeps

Bintou Cham, a 31-year-old New York City home health aid worker, was holding her four-month baby girl, while pushing a cart of baby clothes from J.C. Penney, perfume from Macy's and underwear from Victoria's Secret. She started shopping at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday and spent about $200. She said on average she got about 40 percent to 50 percent off but she was looking for more.

"I was looking for 70 percent off," she said. "I have a baby and it is expensive."

—Anne D'Innocenzio, New York

Thursday, 8 p.m.: Things are looking up for Target

Target CEO Brian Cornell told reporters on a conference call that early results show the discount chain is seeing higher traffic at its stores than last year and shoppers are buying items across the store, from clothing to electronics to toys. He also said that he has been pleased with strong results in online sales. Among some of the most popular door buster deals is a Westinghouse TV, marked down to $249.99, a savings of $350, he said. Target also offered 40 percent off of all fashion and accessories.

—Anne D'Innocenzio, New York

Thursday, 8 p.m.: He's a planner

With one of his sons in tow and two more waiting expectantly at home, Jeff McGehee's Thanksgiving night shopping strategy was downright militaristic: divide and conquer.

The physical education teacher from suburban St. Louis and his wife mapped out their route in advance: she would brave the crowds at Target for a $299 Xbox One coveted by their 19-year-old, while he, his 20-year-old son Josh and McGehee's older brother took a more leisurely stroll through a less crowded Sports Authority in Brentwood, Mo., eyeing deals with the $15 gift cards they earned by being among the first 80 customers in line.

The routine was due to continue before dawn Friday, he said, with a planned 6 a.m. visit to Home Depot for a Christmas tree followed by an Office Depot stop to buy a Google Chrome notebook computer for their youngest son, 17.

—Alan Zagier, Brentwood, Missouri

Thursday, 7:30 p.m.: I don't always shop, but when I do, I might not buy anything

At the crowded Macy's shoe department at Herald Square, Karina Maxim, an artist and tarot card reader , was taking a break in shopping. She had just come from Aeropostale where she spent $60 on T-shirts for her two children.

This was her first time shopping on Thanksgiving.

She plans to go to Best Buy Friday. But she said she doesn't have a plan. "I'm not going to promise I will buy anything," she said.

—Anne D'Innocenzio, New York

Thursday, 5:55 p.m.: Lamenting the good ole days

An hour and a half before the Toys R Us in Times Square opened at 5 p.m. On Thanksgiving Day, about 40 people stood in line, although that swelled to 100-plus a little after 4 p.m.

"Black Friday isn't what it used to be," said Keith Nelson, 54, who works in security in the Brooklyn and was third in line after arriving about 2:15. "Lines used to be longer, people would be sleeping and bringing lounge chairs out here."

— Mae Anderson, New York

Thursday, 6:45 p.m.: Me time in the mall

Rosy Urrutia, 25, was shopping on Thanksgiving night as an appetizer before her meal. The Commerce City, Colorado stay-at-home mom had an armful of shoe boxes — two for herself and three for her children — and an electric griddle.

"I have one hour to shop and then I have to get home and cook Thanksgiving dinner," she said. "I just wanted to come shop for some me time, I guess. I love it. But I like cooking for everyone, too."

—Kristen Wyatt, Denver, Colorado