The day after Thanksgiving, called Black Friday, is typically the biggest shopping day of the year. For a decade, it had been considered the official start of the holiday buying season. But in the past few years, retailers have pushed opening times into Thanksgiving night. They've also pushed up discounting that used to be reserved for Black Friday into early November, which has led retail experts to question whether the Thanksgiving openings will steal some of Black Friday's thunder.
The holiday openings came despite threatened protests from workers' rights groups, which are opposed to employees working on the holiday instead of spending the day with family.
Overall, the National Retail Federation expects retail sales to be up 4 percent to $602 billion during the last two months of the year. That's higher than last year's 3.5 percent growth, but below the 6 percent pace seen before the recession.
Analysts expect sales to be generated at the expense of profits, as retailers will likely have to do more discounting to get people into stores.
Here's how the start of the holiday shopping season is playing out. All times are EST, unless otherwise specified.
— Friday, 11:20 a.m.: it's not all peaceful for shoppers.
Las Vegas police say a shopper carrying a big-screen TV home from a Target on Thanksgiving was shot by a thief.
Authorities say the incident happened at about 9:45 p.m. Thursday.
Police Lt. David Gordon says the victim was carrying the TV at an apartment complex near the University of Nevada, Las Vegas when someone fired warning shots, prompting him to drop the appliance. Gordon says the robber snatched the TV and took it to a vehicle, and the victim tried to wrestle it back. That's when the robber fired shots and hit the victim in the leg.
The shopper was taken to Sunrise Hospital with injuries that aren't considered life-threatening. No arrests have been made. It's unclear what happened to the TV.
Meanwhile, police in Utah say at least two people were knocked to the ground by a crowd of Wal-Mart shoppers jockeying for a $49 tablet computer. Police say store employees brought out a pallet of items wrapped in cellophane, and about 200 people rushed forward to grab the items as the workers cut the wrapper.
Police say neither person was seriously hurt in the incident Thursday night at a store in Clinton, about 30 miles north of Salt Lake City.
— Friday, 10:40 a.m.: Toys R Us executive reports "nice crowds around the country."
"It was very steady overall, good crowds, lots of families shopping together," Toys R Us' chief merchandising operator, Richard Barry, said in an interview. "People are using it as an entertainment, having some fun and getting great deals in the holiday spirit."
Crowds were largest when the stores opened at 5 p.m. Thursday, then were quieter from 3 a.m. to 5 a.m. Another spike came at 5 a.m. as more deals kicked off.
He said popular items included classic toys, such as a 55-piece train table set that was half off at $40. Also selling well were Lego sets, a Thomas the Tank Engine board game and Nerf's Rebel bow-and-arrow set. People were also buying the children's video games "Skylanders" and "Disney Infinity."
Barry said people responded well to the stores' 5 p.m. opening, three hours earlier than last year.
"People liked the fact they could shop at a more humane hour and didn't have to get up in the middle of the night, and could spend time with family," he said. "Overall our whole strategy is to give customers what they want, how they want and when they want."
— Mae Anderson, AP Retail Writer, New York
— Friday, 10:25 a.m.: Florida man arrested after baby left alone in shopping center parking lot
A father faces felony child neglect charges after a Florida Highway Patrol trooper spotted a baby left alone in a car outside a Best Buy store.
The incident happened about 5:30 p.m. Thursday near Orlando.
Authorities say trooper Edy Rivera saw the infant in a car seat inside a locked car. He went into the store, looking for the vehicle's owner. When no one came forward, he broke the vehicle's window and got the baby boy out.
A short time later, officials say 34-year-old Haider Darwash returned to the vehicle. He told troopers he thought his wife had the baby. She was located standing in line at another business in the shopping center.
The child was not harmed.
Darwash was booked into jail. An attorney was not listed on jail records.
— Friday, 10 a.m.: In interview with AP's Mae Anderson, Macy's CEO says 15,000 in line for opening in New York
Macy's says about 15,000 people waited in line for the opening of its flagship store in New York at 8 p.m. Thursday. That compares with the 11,000 people last year, when the store opened at midnight.
"It's unbelievable," CEO Terry Lundgren said in an interview Friday morning. "Clearly people are in the shopping mood."
On Thursday night, many of the shoppers were the "millennial" younger shopper in their 20s. By 5 a.m. Friday, the more traditional Macy's shopper, in their 30s and 40s, were out shopping, he said.
In terms of hot items, workout gear and women's shoes were "off the charts successful," Lundgren said. Because of the chilly weather, boots and sweaters were popular, too.
Popular deals included one for a bedsheet set. "Those were selling like crazy," he said.
Kitchen appliances like blenders, coffee makers and the $98 Nutribullet food appliance were popular, too, as were women's handbags.
— Mae Anderson, AP Retail Writer, New York
— Friday, 9:15 a.m.: Police officer suffers broken wrist breaking up fight
Authorities say a police officer suffered a broken wrist as he broke up a brawl between two men waiting in line for Black Friday shopping deals at a Southern California Wal-Mart store.
The San Bernardino Sun says the fight occurred about 7 p.m. Thanksgiving night when store managers decided to open the doors early to accommodate more than 3,000 waiting people. The doors were originally scheduled to open at 8 p.m.
Police say there were three fights at the store in Rialto. Two of them were inside over merchandise; the third was outside, when the officer got injured.
One of the men involved in the fight outside was arrested for suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon. Police allege that he was kicking the other man in the head when he was down on the ground.
— Friday, 8:50 a.m.: Promises, promises — deal guarantee falls through in Florida.
Crowds waiting for vouchers for a deal on televisions walked away empty-handed after an in-stock guarantee fell through at a Wal-Mart store near Tampa, Fla.
Wal-Mart had promised that shoppers can get a voucher to buy the product later if a store is sold out, as long as the shopper is inside the store within one hour of a doorbuster sales event. At the store in Lutz, Fla., that meant either a television or a voucher for anyone in line before 7 p.m. Thursday.
Customers told Bay News 9 that by 7:15 p.m., they were told that all the televisions — and vouchers — were gone.
Pasco County Sheriff's deputies who were already working at the store were asked for assistance. The crowd didn't get unruly, but customers told the television station they were upset.
Wal-Mart spokeswoman Danit Marquardt said the company is looking into the situation.
"It is always our goal to take care of our customers — especially on an important shopping day like Black Friday."
— Friday, 7:30 a.m.: Exhaustion for shopper near Atlanta
Curtis Akins, 51, drove about three hours from Tifton, Ga., to watch the annual Macy's tree-lighting ceremony at Lenox Square mall in Atlanta on Thanksgiving. The store opened for shoppers at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving, and the rest of the mall opened at midnight.
By 5 a.m. Friday, he was sitting on a bench — looking slightly exhausted — inside another mall as his wife shopped for deals. The North Point Mall in Atlanta's northern suburbs had the feel of an airport terminal in the pre-dawn hours, with some store gates open, others closed and many shoppers slowly shuffling along, bleary-eyed.
Akins said he wasn't keen on Black Friday starting earlier and earlier.
"I think it's going to end because it's taking away from the traditional Thanksgiving," he said.
— Jeff Martin, Associated Press, Alpharetta, Ga.
— Friday, 7:10 a.m.: Target Corp. has announced a "very successful start" to the Black Friday shopping weekend.
The retailer opened at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving, an hour earlier than a year ago. At Target.com, where nearly all the deals were available on Thanksgiving, traffic and sales were among the highest the Minneapolis-based retailer has seen in a single day.
In the early morning hours after the deals first became available, Target says its website saw two times more orders compared with a year ago at that time.
Hot items include Apple Inc.'s iPad Air, several large-screen TVs and Nintendo's 3DS XL, which all sold out by mid-morning Thursday. In stores, crowds began gathering hours before the 8 p.m. opening. Target said that lines stretched several blocks.
Target said the stores' electronics and toys sections were popular destinations. In many locations, the Element 52-inch TV sold out in minutes.
— Anne D'Innocenzio, AP Retail Writer, New York
— Friday, 6:50 a.m.: Two hurt as police respond to shoplifting call
Authorities say a police officer answering a call of alleged shoplifting at a Chicago area department store shot the driver of a car that was dragging a fellow officer.
The wounded driver of the car and the dragged officer were both taken for hospital treatment of non-life-threatening shoulder injuries, police say. Three people were arrested.
Mark Turvey, police chief in Romeoville, Ill., said police got a call shortly after 10 p.m. Thursday of two people allegedly shoplifting clothes from a Kohl's store in the southwest Chicago suburb.
"As officers approached the front door, one of the two subjects ran out the door into the parking lot" and the officer chased him to a waiting car, Turvey said.
"The officer was struggling with the subject as he got into the car and then the car started to move as the officer was partially inside the car. The officer was dragged quite some distance. He couldn't get out," Turvey said.
The police chief said a backup officer fired two or three shots toward the driver when he refused orders to stop, striking him once in the shoulder.
There were no reports of any injuries to shoppers hunting for deals ahead of Black Friday.
A store manager contacted early Friday said he had no further information and referred The Associated Press to a corporate spokeswoman, who didn't immediately return a message Friday.
— Friday, 6:30 a.m.: Tech gadgets among best-sellers at Wal-Mart
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. said that best sellers for its Thanksgiving sale included big-screen TVs, Apple's iPad Minis, laptops, Microsoft's Xbox One, Sony's PlayStation 4 and the game "Call of Duty: Ghosts."
The world's largest retailer said that customers also bought 2.8 million towels, 300,000 bicycles and 1.9 million dolls.
Wal-Mart started its deals at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving, two hours earlier than last year. The retailer said 1 million customers took advantage of its one-hour guarantee program, which allows shoppers who are inside a Wal-Mart store within one hour of a doorbuster sales event to buy that product and either take it home that day or by Christmas. That program started a year ago with three items and was expanded to 21 this year.
For the first time this year, customers were offered wristbands for popular products, allowing them to shop while they waited for deals.
— Anne D'Innocenzio, AP Retail Writer, New York
— Thursday afternoon: Pizza Hut has offered to rehire the manager of a northern Indiana restaurant who was fired over his refusal to open up on Thanksgiving Day.
Tony Rohr said he has worked at the Elkhart restaurant since starting as a cook more than 10 years but was told to write a letter of resignation after his refusal. He said he declined in a meeting with his boss and instead wrote a letter explaining that he believed the company should care more about its employees.
"I said, 'Why can't we be the company that stands up and says we care about our employees and they can have the day off?'" Rohr told WSBT-TV of South Bend, Ind.
Rohr said he was thinking about the other workers at the restaurant.
"Thanksgiving and Christmas are the only two days that they're closed in the whole year, and they're the only two days that those people are guaranteed to have off and spend it with their families," he said.
Plano, Texas-based Pizza Hut issued a statement Wednesday saying it respects an employee's right to not work on the holiday and that the store owner has agreed to reinstate Rohr.
— Associated Press
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