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Black Friday 2011: Retailers Use Early Openings, Deals To Lure Consumers [LIVE UPDATES]

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Black Friday: It's one of the biggest shopping days of the year -- famous for long lines, huge deals and shopper stampedes. And this year, even in a down economy, shoppers are expected to show up in droves.

The National Retail Federation estimates that the number of shoppers hitting stores the day after Thanksgiving will be up 10 percent from last year. And retailers are getting more competitive to get them to their stores. Electronic store officials say they're going to be "playing offense" to get consumers to spend on TVs. Some retailers are offering bottom barrel prices on hot video games to lure shoppers.

Others are maximizing the number of hours they'll have shoppers wandering their aisles. Target, Macy's and Best Buy are all opening their stores at midnight, while Toys R Us and Walmart, the nation's largest retailer, will be inviting deal-seekers inside late on Thanksgiving Day.

Some say the store openings may be getting too early, including employees at Target and Best Buy, who have launched online petitions asking the stores not to open at midnight on Black Friday so workers can stay home with their families on Thanksgiving. Even many Black Friday traditionalists say they're staying away because the openings are cutting too much into their own Thanksgivings, according to The New York Times.

The early openings and huge discounts may not be enough to get those consumers concerned about the economy into stores. More than 60 percent of Americans say they expect the economy to influence their holiday shopping this year, a survey from the NRF found. Consumers barely boosted spending in October, according to the Commerce Department, indicating holiday shopping may be slow.

Regardless the atmosphere at malls and big box stores across the country is sure to be hectic on Black Friday, so check out our liveblog to get a round up of the latest Black Friday deals, news and stampedes.

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Farmingdale, New York Patch has this update on Black Friday:

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The lines outside Sears’ 900-plus stores today ranged from about 100 to 600 bargain-hungry shoppers -- longer than last year’s, Tom Aiello, divisional vice president of media relations, tells DailyFinance.

While it’s too early to tell why more people seem to have been waiting for the retailer to swing open its doors at 4 a.m., Aiello suspects more shoppers participated in Sears' buy-online-pickup-in-store program this year.

Save for the doorbusters, the retailer put all its Black Friday sales and inventory online at midnight on Thanksgiving. After that, “we started to see spikes on our mobile site,” Aiello says.

So the long lines could very well have included many shoppers who had already made a purchase on, and just “showed up for a merchandise pickup,” he says.

“What’s interesting is that we got a lot of questions and concerns about us opening at 4 a.m. when other retailers were opening at midnight or earlier.” So far, it’s turned out to be a non-issue, he says.

“A lot of people showed up saying they’d come from other retailers. It seemingly helped us to get longer lines.”

What’s more, “price transparency works in our favor,” he says, noting the increase in shoppers who tap price comparison apps to find the lowest price on an item.

One shopper who’d been searching in the wee hours of the morning for the Playstation 3 Holiday Bundle Gaming Console, and finally found one at Sears for 9 (down from 9), “gave our Sears associate a big hug.”

As for what's been selling at the chain, in consumer electronics, “two years ago it was the GPS, a year ago it was LED TVs, and this year we’re seeing tablets as one of the breakout products,” Aiello says. One hot seller at Sears: The Sylvania tablet for .

On surprise big seller at the chain, which largely caters to cash-strapped shoppers: the Motovox Gas Mini bike for 0, down from 9. “I didn’t expect that – it’s a little more expensive than the average gift,” Aiello says. --Barbara Thau, Daily Finance

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The most dedicated Black Friday shoppers in N. Charleston, South Carolina were those camped out in front of the Best Buy by Northwoods Mall last night -- all to score the 42-inch Sharp HDTV for 0.

Bleys Prescott, age 20, doesn't have family in the area -- he's been in the Navy for 6 months and lives on the nearby base. He got to Best Buy at 6 a.m. on Wednesday morning. "Some friends of mine from the base brought me dinner today," he said. "It's been fun. Everyone in the front of the line has been hanging out here overnight."

One of the people he met was Byron Lynch, age 34, who didn't camp out but came regularly to the line to bring his girlfriend food. Wednesday night, the couple pulled their car up to the front of Best Buy and slept in it.

"Everyone calls us crazy," said Sebastian Burton-Austrom, age 17, who was in front of Lynch and Prescott. "All day people drove by and shouted at us."

"They'll talk up until the last hour when we get all the good stuff," he added with a chuckle.

Burton-Austrom, who lives with his parents and has a job as a host at Senor Tequila, slept directly on the concrete sidewalk Wednesday night. He says he's been saving all year long for a Sharp TV and HP desktop computer.

"I'll spend around ,000 tonight," he said. "I've been here 30 hours, and I'm not working today. But in the end I end up saving money."

"This is the day to shop," said Burton-Austrom's companion, Seth Hollibaugh, age 18. "Then you save up all year for the next Black Friday." --Alice Hines, The Huffington Post

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NEW YORK - On Manhattan's Upper West Side, the shops were open by 10 a.m. on Black Friday. Yet the flow of foot traffic was thin for the most part, with two exceptions: the Ugg store doing brief business in shearling slippers and the Apple store, where staff and customers were milling about in equal numbers. The store's one-day discounts included - off iPad 2s and 1 off laptops.

While some shopped for slippers and laptops, it appears many others just stayed in them. Data on Friday from PayPal reported a 511% increase in global mobile payment volume on Thursday when compared to Thanksgiving 2010, with the highest number of mobile purchases made in New York City, followed by Houston, Los Angeles, Miami and Chicago.

By early afternoon at The Shops at Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle -- one of the few true shopping malls in Manhattan -- shoppers were picking up deals from J. Crew, like 25% off total sales of more than 0, and Sephora, where a table saw eager attention. A lounge sponsored by MasterCard serving free beverages and WiFi was only half-full. Yet it could have been any other weekend. The sales clerk at J.Crew said she anticipated more shoppers arriving in the late afternoon. --Catherine New, The Huffington Post

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"Over the Holidays, your soul belongs to Walmart"

- Stephen Oliver, age 20, Walmart employee

Walmart was the first retailer to kick off this year's Black Friday madness, with sales starting at 10 p.m. Shoppers at the Super Walmart in North Charleston, South Carolina huddled around the plastic wrapped cubes full of sale items, waiting for employees to tear open the packaging (see video footage).

Those employees were not so thrilled. Stephen Oliver, 20, Cece Bigant, 19, and Kalin Brown, 26, all worked 12 hour shifts on Black Friday. None of them were able to eat Thanksgiving meals with your families.

"There's no requesting days off. When I took the job here 11 months ago I didn't think about the holiday," said Bigant.

"You have to request days off three months in advance or else you don't get holiday pay," said Brown.

"It's whack!" added Oliver. --Alice Hines, Huffington Post

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Shoppers reportedly got in a fight over waffle makers at a Wal-Mart near Little Rock, Arkansas WBTV reports. Read the full story at HuffPost

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One Cedar Falls Patch reporter made the rounds at local malls and reports on the shopping frenzy:

In Rue21, a couple actually left their baby in a stroller in the front of the store. An employee discovered the infant when she heard it crying and held the baby behind the counter to wait for mall security to arrive.

As many of us stood there in disbelief, the father of the child came and took the baby from the employee without saying a word and continued shopping with his wife. I had seen this couple trying on coats about 20 minutes prior to the incident. I hope they found a really good one.

In the Buckle, I saw another empty stroller at the front of the store. I started looking around and eventually saw the toddler running around that belonged to it… straight into the jewelry display case. The child continued to lie on the ground chewing on a wooden hanger. The father of the child eventually came to see how his son was doing and was later joined by the couple from Rue21 – I guess they were friends.

One question – what are these kids doing up in the wee hours of the morning anyway? I'm pretty sure the last thing they want to do at 3 a.m. is hold Mommy's shopping bags.

Read the full story on Patch

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Despite the frantic shopping scene in many of America's brick-and-mortar stores today, a big chunk of consumers have opted out of the madness: It's shaping up to be a big Black Friday for online shopping. According to preliminary figures, online retail sales are up 18% from the same time period over Black Friday 2010, according to Coremetrics, IBM's marketing technology division. --Barbara Thau, Daily Finance

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Shoppers looking for toy deals began lining up at the Toys R Us in Holbrook, New York at 6 p.m. for the store's opening at 9 p.m., Patch reports:

Dozens of eager shoppers, sated from their holiday feasts, queued up outside Toys "R" Us in Holbrook. Some customers waited from as early as 6 p.m. to get first crack at the more than ,500 in savings, including doorbusters, advertised in the Thanksgiving weekend circular.

Many like Elsie Delaney, 65, from Medford came down grudgingly as the doors opened.

"You are losing something, family time. We had a big discussion at dinnertime, but we're still here. Where is the sense of family?," said Delaney. "This is really the only holiday that doesn't have a formal denomination ... a holiday where everyone should [be with] family."

Read the full story from Patch here.

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Shoppers were out early at one Westchester, New York mall. Patch has the story.

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Black Friday couldn't bolster stocks as persistant European fears sapped gains, according to Forbes.

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An Upper West Side, New York City Apple store was packed at about 12:15 p.m., HuffPost's Catherine New reports.

The staff to customer ratio at the store looked to be about 1-to-1 and one day deals featured in Apple's gift guide include to off of iPads 1 off of laptops and off of iPod nanos.

Check out a photo from HuffPost's Catherine New:

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Reuters reports:

The holiday shopping season got off to an ugly start with shoppers pepper-spraying one another to battle for bargains and robbers shooting shoppers to steal their Black Friday purchases, police said on Friday.

In Los Angeles, authorities were reviewing Walmart security tapes to track down a Hispanic woman in her 30s who pepper-sprayed the crowd swarming Xboxes on sale 10 p.m. local time Thursday, Los Angeles police Sergeant J. Valle said.

Read the full report from Reuters here.

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@ TIME : PHOTOS: #BlackFriday madness. We'd laugh if we weren't so frightened |

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After shoppers flooded stores earlier than ever, some retailers like Macy's are considering making earlier openings a permanent part of their Black Friday offerings, the Wall Street Journal reports:

Coming off of what looks like a successful midnight opening, Macy's Inc. appears to be heading toward making the time a tradition. "My first impression is this is a positive step and we're attracting a different type of customer," one that is younger than the more traditional Black Friday customer, Chief Executive Terry Lundgren said in an interview.

Given the strong reception, after other retailers "get done looking at how it went this weekend and how successful it was I would think some of them will begin opening at midnight or even earlier," Jones Lang LaSalle retail chief Greg Maloney said.

Read the full report from the WSJ here.

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@ CrainsChicago : Midnight proved not to be too early for shoppers (via @Brigid_Sweeney) #BlackFriday

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Mentor Patch reports that shoppers came to the Great Lakes Mall in Mentor Ohio in droves to take advantage of Black Friday deals.

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More than 1,000 shoppers showed up at the Target in Strongsville, Ohio, Patch reports.

Little by little, the 1,000 or more shoppers, who had assembled outside of the bullseye retailer, hurried into the store to find those once-in-a-year deals.

Minutes after midnight, folks emerged with flat panel TV's, cameras, video games, cookwear and more.

"I couldn't feel my fingers, my cheeks were frozen and I'd do it all over again to get the Westinghouse," said Claire Johnson from Brunswick.

Read the full report and check out some photos from Patch here.

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One shopper was shot during an attempted robbery at a Walmart in San Leandro, California, the Bay City News Service reports:

Black Friday turned violent at Walmart early Friday when a person was shot during an attempted robbery, police said.

The victim's family detained one suspect as another fled and police arrested that man, in his mid-20s.

Police received a report of a fight in front of the Walmart at 15555 Hesperian Blvd. around 1:50 a.m. Officers who had been patrolling near the parking lot went to the center parking lot aisle near the front of the store where they found a gunshot victim wound and the victim's family members detaining a possible suspect, police said.

Read the full report on the San Leandro Patch here.

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Shots were fired at a North Carolina mall on Black Friday, authorities said.

There were no injuries and shoppers were not told to evacuate.

Read the entire post here.

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The website for Occupy Harrisburg is reporting that an Occupy protester was arrested at a Pennsylvania mall Black Friday morning while peacefully parodying "mindless consumerism and corporate greed." The protester was dressed as a zombie. According to, roughly 15 protesters took part in the street theater, slowly walking through the Capital City Mall in zombie garb and face paint. Mall security told them to "wash their faces or leave the property," the site reports:
Lower Allen Township police arrested one woman at about 5 a.m. and charged her with trespassing, according to Chief Frank E. Williamson Jr., who was at the scene. The protester, Jenn Hara, was handcuffed and taken to the police station. At no point did she physically resist arrest. "I was merely asking security for more information regarding their regulations which restrict 'obscuring' a person's face," Hara said. "I did not refuse to leave."

Click here to read more.

-- Dave Jamieson

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@ KristenShamus : Feels like a Bizarro #BlackFriday morning. Stores are practically empty Downriver.

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Business Week reports this year's Black Friday sales are about on par with 2010's numbers.

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From Styleist, a quick primer on how shoppers can get the most out of Black Friday. Read it here.

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From ChatsworthPatch:

A woman wildly pepper-sprayed customers dashing for doorbuster bargains inside the Porter Ranch Wal-Mart Thursday night just 10 minutes after the store opened.

A fleeing victim cried "My eyes, my eyes," according to a witness sending a Twitter message. The fight was reportedly over an Xbox 360 video game.

"This was customer-versus-customer 'shopping rage,'" Los Angeles Police Lt. Abel Parga told the Los Angeles Times.

Los Angeles firefighters came to the aid of 20 injured customers, LAFD spokesman Shawn Lenske said. Injuries were minor, he said.

"A woman with two children in tow became upset with the way people were pushing in line. The witness said she pulled out pepper spray and sprayed the other people in line," NBC4 reported. Police were said to be reviewing security tape.

"The female suspect was waiting with other shoppers for some items

wrapped in plastic to be released for sale at 10 p.m.,'' Officer P. Rimkunas told City News Service. "At 10, when the plastic was ripped off, she sprayed.''

"The woman, who is still being sought, used the spray in more than one area of the Wal-Mart 'to gain preferred access to a variety of locations in the store,'" Los Angeles Fire Capt. James Carson told the Los Angeles Times.

"She was competitive shopping," he said.

Read the entire post here.

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From Patch:

It took two long days, but for Kathy Calle and her niece, Karisa Pasay, it was worth it.

“It is all for this kid,” said Calle, pointing to a picture of her son on her smart phone. “He’s 17, and he needs this TV.”

Calle and Pasay, both of Moosup, camped out at the entrance of Best Buy in Waterford starting on Wednesday morning in preparation of the Black Friday sales today. The number one item they both wanted was a 9.99 Sharp 42” television, a product listed normally for 9.99 on Best Buy’s website.

Not that the two were alone. Thousands and thousands of people stood in line at several of Waterford’s largest chain stores, including Target, Walmart and Toys “R” Us, for a chance at deals. Most of the stores had “doorbusters,” such as the 42” television, where there was a limited amount of the product that people at the front of the line would get. Also, the stores had general sales as well on nearly every product.

“It’s a family tradition,” said Jeremiah Csubak, who went to Best Buy with some of his cousins. “We don’t get to see each other that often so we just hang out in line.”

Read the entire post here.

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Tents lined up neatly in front of Best Buy just one shopping complex north in Cranberry, Pennsylvania. The self-proclaimed leader of this tent city was Lenny Radzicki of Freedom.

“Absolutely. Last year I was here,” he said matter-of-factly when asked if this shopping trip was an annual event. “The year before that I was at Walmart.”

Radzicki and his buddies not only spent Thanksgiving in the Best Buy line but also the day before, getting in line at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday.

“We deep-fried a turkey in the parking lot. We had a Thanksgiving,” Radzicki said. “And my family’s got a plate at home for me too.”

For that family, Radzicki hopes to bring home a new 42-inch television—for the sale price of 9.

-- From Western Pennsylvania Patch

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Ten minutes before a Best Buy on 23rd Street and 6th Avenue opened their doors on Friday at midnight, a small scuffle broke out in line over an alleged cutter. Emotions were festive -- but exhausted. Those at the front of the line had been waiting since 8:30 a.m. to snag deals on everything from a 0 42" television to a PS3 and two games for 9.

Dianne Sylvester, 48, from Jamaica, Queens was one of those. She said she was tired but looking forward to buying three television sets along with 9 Gateway notebook computer. Moments before opening the doors, the Best Buy handlers reminded the crowd, which snaked down a whole avenue block, that no one was allowed to run inside the store.

Just blocks north, thousands of people streamed into Macy's. Chinese, Hindi and European languages were heard as shoppers flooded the sales floors, looking for deals on handbags, clothing and jewelry. But many were just sight seeing -- soaking the in the spectacle or happy to be out from a parent's close watch.

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From Reuters:

Some stores, looking to grab as big a piece as possible of what is expected to be a middling holiday shopping season pushed post-Thanksgiving openings into Thursday evening or opened at midnight for the first time in years, getting a jump start on "Black Friday," the traditional beginning to the U.S. holiday shopping season.

The strategy appeared to be working, judging from the 300 people who were lined up at a Toys R Us store on Long Island, New York before it opened at 9 p.m. on Thursday, while shoppers and employees at other stores said the crowds were bigger than in the past.

Read more here.

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Also on The Huffington Post

Black Friday Plans From 13 Big Retailers
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