Black Friday crowds thin
Crowds were thin at U.S. stores and shopping malls in the early hours of Black Friday and on Thanksgiving evening as shoppers responded to early holiday discounts with caution and bad weather hurt turnout.
Major retail stocks including Target and Wal-Mart fell in early trading.
Bargain hunters found relatively little competition compared with previous years. Some on Friday morning said they had already shopped online or visited the mall the night before. That reflects the new normal of U.S. holiday shopping, where stores open up with deals on Thanksgiving Thursday itself, rather than waiting until Black Friday.
In an effort to attract the most eager holiday shoppers and fend off competition from Amazon.com Inc, U.S. retailers have increasingly extended their holiday deals by opening stores on the evening of Thanksgiving.
That has hurt Black Friday sales in previous years, a trend analysts expect will continue this year.
"We believe Thanksgiving shopping was a bust," analysts at Suntrust Robinson Humphrey said in a research note. "Members of our team who went to the malls first had no problem finding parking or navigating stores."
Scott Tuhy, vice-president at Moody's who tracks companies like Macy's Inc, said crowds on Thursday evening in New Jersey were steady but not busy. He said some stores saw a fair amount of activity around orders that were placed online and picked up in stores.
The Macy's store at Water Tower Place mall on a rainy Chicago morning saw thin crowds in the early hours of Friday after a fairly busy Thanksgiving evening, store associates said.
Nia Darrell, a 23-year-old student, was shopping for coats and handbags at the store with two friends.
"I shopped online yesterday and picked up most of what I wanted," she said." I'm out because Black Friday is more like a tradition but the discounts are similar even online this year."