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Black Friday Deals Start Earlier Than Ever On Thanksgiving

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BLACK FRIDAY DEALS 2012
Jackson Police Cpl. Terry Hopkins Sr. watches customers enter Best Buy in Jackson, Miss., for the early Black Friday sales, Friday, Nov. 23, 2012. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis) | AP


* Some stores move to earlier openings, on Thurs night

* National Retail Federation sees holiday sales up 4.1 pct

* Group says number of shoppers should fall slightly

* Protesters challenge early opening hours, wages

By Phil Wahba and Dhanya Skariachan

NEW YORK/BLOOMINGTON, Minn., Nov 23 (Reuters) - U.S. retailers declared their experiment with earlier store openings to kick off the holiday shopping season a success on Friday, with those new hours expected to be a Thanksgiving night staple for more retailers next year.

Stores such as Target Corp opened hours before midnight on Thursday to try to capture a bigger piece of the retail pie. The move seemed to bring out a different type of shopper than the usual one who grabs the "Black Friday" deals, analysts said.

That meant by Friday morning, some shoppers, like Christian Alcantara, 18, at a J.C. Penney Co Inc store in Queens, New York, had already made a lot of their purchases. J.C. Penney stuck to a more traditional 6 a.m. EST (1100 GMT) Friday opening.

"They should open earlier. I've been everywhere else and I've already shopped," he said.

Shoppers like Alcantara are likely to force holdouts like J.C. Penney to move their post-Thanksgiving sales into Thursday night next year, said Liz Ebert, retail lead at consulting firm KPMG LLP.

"There will be pressure on them. There'll be an expansion of it next year," Ebert said.

Hard data on "Black Friday" store traffic will not come in until this weekend. But analysts said retailers who opened early brought in a non-traditional Black Friday shopper, with more families coming in together and buying more than just the "doorbuster" sale items.

"I've never seen parents bring so many kids on Black Friday," Toys R Us Chief Executive Jerry Storch said.

The National Retail Federation expects sales during November and December to rise 4.1 percent this year, below last year's 5.6 percent increase. That made store operators' strategy important as they battled each other, rather than seeing a growing pie in a season when U.S. retailers can make a third of their annual sales and 40 to 50 percent of their profits.

"Retailers want them to buy now, they want to get that share of wallet early," said Michael Appel, a director at consulting firm AlixPartners. He noticed that the Galleria Mall in White Plains, New York, was busy from midnight to 3 a.m., but that traffic, while still brisk, was less heavy by midmorning.

Shoppers used smartphones and tablets and a lot of research as they hit stores, a mobile phenomenon that started last year and seemed to be more prevalent this year.

Thom Blischok, chief retail strategist and a senior executive adviser with Booz & Company's Retail practice, was waiting on line with one woman in Phoenix, who was shopping for a refrigerator. Using her mobile device, she found the appliance online for the same price and left the store without. She intended to buy it online instead.

"There's a fundamental transformation of shopping," he said.

Mobile devices account for 45 percent walmart.com traffic and online traffic coming from Walmart's mobile app was three times bigger than last year, Joel Anderson, chief executive of Walmart.com, said.

Overall, online sales were up 20 percent versus the same period last year, through 3 p.m. EST (2000 GMT) on Friday, IBM said.

The National Retail Federation said 147 million people would shop Friday through Sunday, when deals are at their most eye-catching - down from 152 million the same weekend last year.

The NRF estimate did not account for Thursday shoppers and anecdotal evidence suggested retailers opening earlier may have cut into traffic on "Black Friday", the traditional start of the holiday season that denotes the point when retailers in the past would turn a profit for the year.

"People seemed to be shopping quite a bit, although in talking to mall management, it seemed that traffic was not as busy as last year," Deloitte retail analyst Ramesh Swamy said.

Retailers were also using technology better, allowing sales staff to match prices customers found online and having them use tablets as mobile "checkout stands" so buyers did not have to wait in line, a service consumers were quickly coming to expect.

"I even heard customers complaining about a retailer that didn't have mobile checkout," he said.


SAVING UP FOR CHRISTMAS SPREE

According to a Reuters/Ipsos poll, two-thirds of shoppers were planning to spend the same amount of money as last year or were unsure about plans, while 21 percent intended to spend less, and 11 percent planned to spend more.

"I definitely have more money this year," said Amy Balser, 26, at the head of the line outside the Best Buy store in the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota. "I definitely don't think (the economy) has bounced back anywhere near as much as it needs to, but I see some improvement," she said.

For others, Christmas is the focal point of their annual shopping.

"We cut back spending on birthdays and anniversaries so we'd have more for Christmas. We've adapted," said Cheri Albus, 58, of Papillion, Nebraska, after shopping at J.C. Penney at Westroads Mall in Omaha.

Retail stocks rose in holiday-shortened trading on Friday, in line with gains across the market. Among the leaders, Wal-Mart ended up 1.9 percent and Macy's Inc rose 1.8 percent.


STARTING EARLY

Across the country, store lines were long - in the hundreds or more in many places - with the move toward earlier opening hours appearing to help. By sunrise on Friday, it was commonplace, even at large stores in the major cities, to find many more staffers than shoppers.

While the shift to earlier openings was criticized by store employees and traditionalists because it pulled people away from families on the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday, many shoppers welcomed the chance to shop before midnight or in the early morning hours.

Some workers used the day to send a message.

OUR Walmart - a coalition of current and former Wal-Mart staff seeking better wages, benefits and working conditions - targeted Black Friday for action across the country after staging protests outside stores for months.

Nine protesters were arrested on misdemeanor charges after blocking a street outside a Walmart near Los Angeles, police said. Three of those arrested were Walmart workers, OUR Walmart said.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc's U.S. discount stores, which have been open on Thanksgiving since 1988, offered some Black Friday deals at 8 p.m. on Thursday and special deals on certain electronics, such as Apple Inc iPads, at 10 p.m.

At the Macy's store in Herald Square in Manhattan, the line at the Estee Lauder counter was four deep shortly after its midnight opening. The cosmetics department's "morning specials" included free high-definition headphones with any fragrance purchase of $75 or more, and a set of six eye shadows for $10.

But for some people, cheap wasn't cheap enough - like the Macy's shopper who bought Calvin Klein shoes at 50 percent off but was still not satisfied.

"I was hoping for deeper discounts," said Melissa Glascow, 35, of Brooklyn, New York.

That could actually be an intentional strategy to help retailers' profits.

"It appears that manufacturers and retailers are making concerted efforts to drive margins, which may take some of the sales sizzle out of a traditionally big selling day/period, but should be positive to gross margins," Credit Suisse analyst Gary Balter said in a note to clients.

Lines at Best Buy stores were similar to last year but the traffic to its website was "significantly" higher, Shawn Score, head of the company's U.S. retail business, told Reuters.

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The holiday shopping season is in full force. And we bet you're endlessly looking for the perfect gift for mom, dad and everyone in between. (If you need a little help, check out our Gift Guide page for some awesome suggestions.) And while we love the idea of giving and receiving, we don’t always end up with the right item.

Head over to HuffPost Home for details on Walmart, Target and other major retailers.

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From CNNMoney:

While Black Friday is a big day, Macy's CEO Terry Lundgren discusses the big picture.

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From CNET:

Here's a quick Thanksgiving/Black Friday question for you.

In the run-up to Christmas, Hanukkah, and all the other gift-laden winter holidays, would you rather go after a bargain by letting your fingers loll about on the screen of a smartphone or tablet -- or mix it up with the punch-throwing, gun-toting, um, customers at your local big box store?

We thought so. And if numbers from eBay are any indication, that instinct toward self-preservation is strong in many of us (or at least an increasing number of us). For the numbers show that, since last year, Thanksgiving and Black Friday have -- not surprisingly -- seen significant jumps in the number of people shopping via mobile device.

Read more here.

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A HuffPost reader from Alabama writes:

"My son is a member of the Alabama National Guardsmen! He also works for Walmart in the Shipping and Handling Department. My son works 40 hours a week and is paid .25 an hour. My son has a wife and four children, two of whom are disabled. How can Walmart billionaires be allowed to get away with their slave labor ways of doing things?"

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HuffPost's Alice Hines reports:

DALLAS and LOS ANGELES -- As she neared the entrance of a Dallas-area Walmart shortly before midnight on the eve of the shopping frenzy known as Black Friday, Tammy was both shocked and thrilled to encounter a group of more than 40 protesters.

Having worked for a dozen years as a cashier at another national retail chain, Walgreens, Tammy said she felt an immediate sense of solidarity with the Walmart employees.

"Walmart cuts hours and benefits to push people out," said Tammy, using her phone to capture video of the protest. "It's the same thing at Walgreens. The workers are suffering while billionaires make all the money."

But despite her professed anger at corporate greed, Tammy -- who declined to provide her last name lest she jeopardize her job -- was not deterred from entering Walmart to purchase a TV on a layaway plan. Her own low wages made her feel a sense of community with the striking Walmart workers, but those same wages also generated pressure to find and buy goods at low prices -- precisely the demand that Walmart has fed to turn itself into the world's largest retailer.

Read more here.

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From HuffPost Business:

Never imagine you'd see Walmart workers striking against their employer? Now you can, using the Twitter hashtag "#walmartstrikers," a phrase accompanying many photos tweeted out by the protesters during the Black Friday protests.

Walmart doesn't appear overly concerned. In a Friday morning press release, the retail giant said planned protests haven't affected the company's Black Friday plans so far:

"Only 26 protests occurred at stores last night and many of them did not include any Walmart associates,” Bill Simon, Walmart U.S. president and chief executive officer said in the release. “We estimate that less than 50 associates participated in the protest nationwide. In fact, this year, roughly the same number of associates missed their scheduled shift as last year."

The strikes are being organized by OUR Walmart, a labor group backed by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union. Check out some photos from Twitter here.

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In an email to HuffPost, Dawn Bess in Missouri writes:

"No one is striking here. Missouri is an 'at will' employment state and the employers pay the unemployment insurance. It no longer is deducted from our paychecks like it was 5 or 10 years ago, so if you are fired in Missouri for ANY reason that your employer can conjure up, the state denies us unemployment compensation. We can file a protest but the state always takes the employer's side and we lose. It's a horrible situation here in Missouri and everyone is terrified of losing their jobs for any reason because the state has no qualms about leaving us penniless and homeless. There is no security net in MO for workers who lose their job. So short of the long, no, there are no strikes here."

Alexander Eichler

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walmart protests

Demonstrators are arrested by police after protesting outside a Walmart store Friday Nov. 23, 2012, in Paramount, Calif. Wal-Mart employees and union supporters are taking part in today's nationwide demonstration for better pay and benefits A union-backed group called OUR Walmart, which includes former and current workers, was staging the demonstrations and walkouts at hundreds of stores on Black Friday, the day when retailers traditionally turn a profit for the year. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)

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One man's frustration with Black Friday crowds reached a boiling point early Friday morning when he was caught on video threatening to stab anyone that came too close to him.

According to CNN, the crowd at a Kmart in Sacramento, Calif. took on a "mob mentality" as the store opened its doors to shoppers who had been in line for hours.

Read the full story here.

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Two people were shot outside a Walmart in Tallahassee, Fla., on Friday, police confirmed to WCTV.

The victims were a man and a woman, according to witnesses. Neither have suffered life-threatening injuries, say police.

The scene was described to the Tallahassee Democrat as such:

Kollet Probst said she had finished much of her holiday shopping when she returned to the Walmart on Apalachee Parkway to make a return.

She said she was waiting in the customer service department when a crowd of people came running into the store from the parking lot. Shots started going off, and customers ducked for cover.

"Everybody started trying to find a place to hide," she said.

While police have not yet commented on the cause of the incident, witnesses at the scene told WCTV that "two couples were arguing and one of the men stared firing," before fleeing the scene in his car.

The suspect is still reportedly on the loose.

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Dallas police subdued a shoplifter at the city's Town East Mall with a Taser, according to WFAA.com.

Witness Gloria Lira provided WFAA with a cell-phone video recording of the incident. According to WFAA, one can hear the police order the suspect to put his hands behind him and the sound of the stun gun.

Read the full story here.

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WCTV reports:

Tallahassee police confirm that two people were shot on the sidewalk in front of the Wal-Mart on Apalachee Parkway. Police would not comment on what may have started the confrontation and they would not comment on whether they have any suspects in the case.

Witnesses tell us it was a man and a woman who were shot. Tallahassee police say the victims have non-life threatening injuries.

Read the full story here.

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Sure, Black Friday is that perfect holiday hangover cure that gets you to stop stuffing your face and start filling up on discounted electronics, clothing and furniture. But while you’re digging through the department store sales, you can also take a moment to use your credit card for good on the biggest shopping day of the year.

Read the full story here.

-- HuffPost Impact

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Black Friday shopping got out of hand at the Woodland Mall in Grand Rapids, Mich.

At least two teens were arrested following an altercation early Friday morning, Fox 17 reports.

It was a "chaotic scene" with people running and pepper spray being used, according to WoodTV.

WATCH:

Read the full story here.

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HuffPost reader Barry Vaughn in Alabama writes:

I went to Walmart on the morning of Thanksgiving Day expecting to see picketers. I was desperate to get a couple of things I had to have for Thanksgiving dinner. I was prepared to say, 'I'm sorry. My dad was a union member. I've never crossed a picket line but I've got to get a couple of things' and give them a donation. But there were no picketers. Best of luck to them.

Have you seen anything interesting at a Walmart today? Email us: openreporting@huffingtonpost.com

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MOULTRIE, Ga. -- Walmart says no one was injured in a frenzy over a Black Friday deal at one of its stores in south Georgia.

A video of the incident circulating online shows a large crowd of people pushing, yelling and grabbing boxes off a shelf at the store in Moultrie.

Walmart spokesman Randy Hargrove says a deal on a cell phone with a prepaid, unlimited usage plan "led to excitement among our customers." He called the incident unfortunate, but said it was isolated.

He says staff and security were on hand at the store to handle the situation and that no injuries were reported and no one was escorted from the store.

Here's the video:

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HuffPost reader Joseph Huff-Hannon writes:

"Check out striker doggy at this picket line at a Walmart Super Center in Lakewood, CO (Denver area). At any given time there were way more people in the picket line than there were shoppers walking in and out of the mega Walmart this morning between 8-10am."

striker doggy

walmart strike

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@ TheEllenShow : It's Black Friday! I hope in all of the shopping bustle, we don't lose sight of what's really important today. It's @Snooki's birthday.

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black friday walmart

Nawal Elmilliax joins the protest against Wal-Mart in Boynton Beach, Fla., Friday, Nov 23, 2012. Wal-Mart employees and union supporters are taking part in today's nationwide demonstration for better pay and benefits A union-backed group called OUR Walmart, which includes former and current workers, was staging the demonstrations and walkouts at hundreds of stores on Black Friday, the day when retailers traditionally turn a profit for the year. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)

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A HuffPost reader in Alabama writes:

We have two Walmart employees in our household. I'm told there is no talk of strikes or protests among employees at all. Very sad. The working conditions are terrible. Everyone understands the unfairness. But the culture is such that there is no solidarity among among workers and a fundamental anti-unionism in the overall community of Northern Alabama. People are convinced here that unions are Socialist, even while they are being exploited by low wages, few hours, no benefits, and abusive managers. They won't speak up in Alabama, as far as I know.

Have you seen anything interesting at a Walmart today? Email us: openreporting@huffingtonpost.com

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The AP reports:

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Anne Arundel County police say a 14-year-old boy was robbed of his shopping bag outside Arundel Mills mall after a Black Friday shopping trip.

The Baltimore Sun reports the victim told police he was accosted by five men as he walked out of a Bed Bath and Beyond store about 2 a.m. on Friday. One suspect punched the boy, and another stole a bag with merchandise he had just bought before running off toward the mall’s Bass Pro Shops entrance.

Read the full story here.

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The Los Angeles Times reports:

Insurance company Progressive Corp. said that Black Friday is one of the worst days of the year for parking-related accidents.

On the day after Thanksgiving last year, claims from parking-related accidents increased 37% when compared with other Fridays, the company said. A year before, claims were up 17%.

Read the full story here.

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CNBC reports:

Surging demand from bargain hunting consumers is forcing more retailers to consider opening their doors earlier — a phenomenon that department store giant Macy’s has no intention of joining, CEO Terry Lundgren told CNBC Friday.

“I hate to say never about anything … but as long as I’m around, I've got a problem with [opening early], because I have committed to always being at the opening and I’ve done it all my entire career,” Lundgren told CNBC’s “Squawk Box."

Read the full story here.

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The arrest of a Black Friday shopper at a Florida Walmart was caught on camera and uploaded to YouTube by a fellow shopper on Friday.

Samantha Chavez, 28, is seen in the video being handcuffed by two police officers who were on top of her as she repeatedly screamed "please stop."

WATCH:

Read the full story here.

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A HuffPost reader in Maryland writes:

"I was the only person to strike at my store. I was also asked to leave because I was distributing literature concerning employee complaints. There are others in the store who feel the same but were afraid to strike."

Have you seen anything interesting at a Walmart today? Email us: openreporting@huffingtonpost.com

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WARNING: Explicit Language

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From HuffPost reader Jim Allmendinger:

"Approximately one dozen protesters picketed at the WalMart in Somersworth, NH, this morning. After picketing along the highway, the protesters marched thru the store with signs until they were asked to leave."

Have you seen anything interesting at a Walmart today? Email us: openreporting@huffingtonpost.com

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Great news for holiday shoppers who will be hitting Abercrombie & Fitch, Starbucks and Target this Black Friday: all three companies get top rankings in the new Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation's Buyer's Guide.

The report, also titled "Buying for Workplace Equality 2013," divides popular businesses and their related products into three categories based on their score on the HRC Foundation’s Corporate Equality Index. With a score of 100, Abercrombie & Fitch and Target rank alongside General Mills and Kellogg's as being among the businesses and brands to receive the highest workplace equality scores.

Read the full story here.

-- HuffPost Gay Voices

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There's the walking from store to store, the stretching to reach the good stuff on the top shelf, maybe some heavy lifting once you're carrying all those bags -- it's tempting to consider your Black Friday shopping adventure actual exercise.

Before you go and skip your workout for the day, let's just say there are more efficient ways to fit in a sweat session. But that said, if you're planning to spend the day (or night... or both!) at the mall, it certainly can't hurt to try to make the experience a bit more active.

Read the full story here.

-- HuffPost Healthy Living

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