RALEIGH, N.C./NEW YORK, November 25 (Reuters) – With the Thanksgiving turkey digested, shoppers were expected to turn out in record numbers to shop for Black Friday deals. However, with inclement weather, small crowds were seen outside the stores on what has historically been the busiest shopping day of the year.
“So far, only about 20 people have gone through self-checkout,” said Jimena Silva, a Target employee in Raleigh, North Carolina, who witnessed heavy rain between 6 a.m. and 8 a.m. Friday.
Silva, 23, said she has seen more customers visit the store in years past, but expects foot traffic to pick up later that day.
An estimated 166.3 million people plan to shop from Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday this year, according to the National Retail Federation, nearly 8 million more than last year.
But with sporadic rain in some parts of the country, stores were less busy than usual on Black Friday morning.
In Times Square in New York City, which was cloudy with occasional light rain, employees were seen waiting inside stores for crowds that had not yet arrived.
Outside the American Dream mall in East Rutherford, New Jersey, there were no lines outside the stores. A ToysRUS employee was seen walking around the mall handing out flyers listing Black Friday door-breakers.
However, those who came to the mall were surprised by the deals on offer.
“There are a lot of sales that weren’t advertised. At some of the stores I got 50% off everything I bought,” said Christine Chavez, 45, of Monmouth County, New Jersey. She added that she mainly buys gifts and collected items from Victoria’s Secret and Torrid.
“I was hesitant to come to the mall and I have to say I’m pleasantly surprised.”
US shoppers spent nearly 3% more online on Thanksgiving this year, an Adobe Analytics report showed, with purchases made on mobile phones driving the increase. Black Friday is expected to generate $9 billion of online sales, a modest 1% increase from last year.
Retailers are offering deep discounts both online and in stores, which may squeeze profit margins in the fourth quarter.
Average online discount rates on Thanksgiving in the United States were 29%, up 6% from a year ago, according to Salesforce data, helping drive sales 3% to $7.1 billion .
Walmart has ramped up marketing for the holidays, buying ad space on Twitter and Instagram, during National Football League games, and on billboards near New York City’s Penn Station in hopes of attracting customers. shop early and often before Black Friday.
Rival Amazon (AMZN.O) also offered a slew of deals in its marketplace, including up to 42% off Roomba vacuums, 45% off Calvin Klein men’s T-shirts, and up to 50% off Chromebooks from Lenovo, HP, Acer, and ASUS.
But the online retailer may have bigger things to worry about, as workers at Amazon sites around the world, including in the United States, Germany and France, were urged to strike on Black Friday with calls to improve wages.
Americans, especially those in low-income households, are expected to cut back on their holiday shopping this year as inflation and higher energy prices reduce their purchasing power.
A survey of nearly 1,700 US consumers by S&P Global Market Intelligence shows that 26% of respondents are looking to spend less this holiday season, with 66% saying they will spend about the same amount as last year. Only 7% say they will spend more.
Reporting by Arriana McLymore in Raleigh, NC, Doyinsola Oladipo in East Rutherford, NJ, and Siddharth Cavale in New York Additional reporting by Uday Sampath Kumar Editing by Nick Zieminski
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