Black Friday may be losing some of its luster to online buying and Thanksgiving day door-busters, but for shoppers like Dyane Munford, it’s as “exhilarating” as ever, a time to strategize, divide and conquer the best deals.
The Owings Mills social worker followed her annual tradition of pre-dawn shopping Friday, armed with a game plan for splitting up a master list of must-have items among friends and family who were deployed to Toys R Us, Macy’s and other stores. They intended to donate some items to children and charities.
“I’m from the old school… You need to come into the store and look at the items for yourself to determine that’s what you want,” said Munford, who was among the first customers at Target in Ellicott City when the doors opened at 6 a.m. to a handful of waiting shoppers. “It has been really a very exhilarating, fun, enjoyable and well organized Black Friday.”
The day after Thanksgiving no longer kicks off the holiday shopping season that’s so crucial to retailers’ bottom lines the way it did years ago. But it still attracts consumers like few other days. Of the 164 million people expected to shop Thanksgiving weekend, including Cyber Monday, most of them — 115 million — were expected to head out Friday, according to the National Retail Federation.
Shawniece Smith of Northwest Baltimore has shopped Black Friday for two decades, often using the day to buy a new TV or game system. On Friday, she started with online sales at 6 a.m. before heading to Target, with plans to later hit Kohl’s, Old Navy and Towson Town Center.
“You catch some great deals, when you compare to regular prices,” said Smith, who expects to spend about $1,000 this season and already found good prices on bed sheets, a comforter set and clothing. “It’s worth it. You get more for less money.”
Black Friday shopping started at 2 a.m. for Janet Yannuzzi, three of her friends, two of their daughters and Yannuzzi’s 12-year old granddaughter. They went to Kohl’s, Old Navy and other stores before heading to Target.
“We do this every year,” said Yannuzzi, of Arbutus. “We’re store people. I don’t like doing things online.”
Plus, added her friend Maggie Noble: “I like that we’re all together.”
Holiday spending is now spread out in the days leading up to and including Black Friday, said Jason Oxman, CEO of the Electronic Transactions Association, a trade group for the payments industry, including credit card companies and banks. Retailers, including chains such as Best Buy and Dick’s Sporting Goods, have pushed that trend this year, marketing Black Friday specials as early as Nov. 1, he said.
“Retailers are recognizing that given the intense competition they face with other brick-and-mortars and online, Black Friday is no longer a day, it’s a period of time,” Oxman said. “It’s driven by pretty intense competition in the retail space, both brick-and-mortar and online, and a recognition that consumers are not necessarily as willing to go out of their homes on Thanksgiving and even early Friday morning and want more convenient options available to them.”
Even though Black Friday deals are being offered online in the weeks leading up to the day, retailers still angle to get consumers into their stores on the day after Thanksgiving, using incentives such as in-store coupons.
They recognize, Oxman said, “there are people who do relish getting up early and going out to the stores.”
Such incentives spurred about a hundred people to line up more than two hours before the opening of the Best Buy in Elkridge, with many hoping to be among the lucky few to land vouchers for a 55-inch Toshiba TV for $279 or a Lenovo laptop for $179.
Flakron Shabiu and Maddie Burchell of Columbia were fourth and fifth in line and got a voucher for the TV, which they’d waited to buy on Black Friday.
“They don’t have these kinds of deals online,” Burchell said. “We saved 200 bucks.”
By midday at Towson Town Center, the parking garages were jammed as a steady stream of shoppers came and went. Patrons gathered in the food court to eat lunch had shopping bags stuffed under their seats.
Black Friday shopping is a tradition for Dolores Rose of Brooklyn, N.Y., who was visiting family in the area. She and family members began their Friday at 5 a.m. at Walmart, then went to the mall around 7 a.m., about an hour after it opened. She wasn’t looking for anything in particular but ended up finding bargains on pant sets, electronics, pots and pans, and makeup.
“We got good deals, very good deals,” she said. “You have to get out early.”
Jo-z Bernhardt of Whitehall left the mall with a big box in her hands — a Dyson canister vacuum she snagged for $200 at Macy’s. It usually retails for $579.
“I couldn’t pass this up,” she said.
Days that traditionally ranked among the top holiday spending days now lack the same importance they once held for brick-and-mortar retailers, The NPD Group said. Last year, buyers visited stores less and spent less on Black Friday and Thanksgiving compared to the previous year, the consulting firm said.
But on Friday, Kohl’s said its in-store and online traffic broke records on Thanksgiving, “with hundreds of thousands of customers lined up across the country prior to doors opening, more than 16 million visits to Kohls.com, and key door-buster items selling extremely well.”
And Black Friday sales and traffic were “very strong” and “well ahead of last year,” Kevin Mansell, Kohl’s chairman, president and CEO, said in a statement Friday.
Consumers expect to buy nearly 40 percent of holiday purchases online, up from about a third two years ago, according to The NPD Group. Almost three-quarters of consumers plan to do some holiday shopping online this year, with an even higher likelihood among millennials.
As of 10 a.m. Friday, U.S. consumers had spent $640 million for the day online, nearly 20 percent more than during the same period a year earlier, according to Adobe Analytics Data, which measures 80 percent of online transactions at the largest 100 U.S. web retailers.
Mobile buying on smartphones and tablets also hit record highs, representing nearly two thirds of website visits, analysts said.
Smartphones make it easy for some consumers to comparison shop as they hit the stores.
Amy Zinkand said she prefers what has become a slower paced Black Friday and avoids door-buster sale crowds on Thanksgiving. Just after midnight on Friday, she and her friends dressed in matching “Black Friday Squad” shirts and made their way from Walmart to Kohl’s to Toys R Us to Old Navy to Target, where she bought Legos and Nerf toys for her 11-year-old son.
But in-store shopping is just one part of her strategy, she said.
“I always price check with Amazon and if it’s cheaper, I will always order it,” Zinkand said.
Reporter Alison Knezevich contributed to this article.