Hugit Levi, a 35-year-old Israeli vacationing in New York, stood outside of Macy's flagship store in Herald Square Thursday night for nearly an hour even though she had nothing in mind to buy. She just wanted to experience the early Black Friday hysteria.
“I just wanted to see what Macy’s was like, and I hope it’s worth it,” Levi said.
Levi was part of the record-breaking crowd that stormed Macy’s on Thanksgiving Day. After opening at 6 p.m. EST, over 15,000 people visited the department store on 34th Street in search of early Black Friday deals, according to Macy’s CEO Terry Lundgren.
Of course, Macy's wasn't alone. More retailers are opening their doors ahead of Black Friday sales as consumers grow accustomed to shopping on Thanksgiving. Some 20 percent of consumers said they planned to shop in brick-and-mortar retail locations on Thanksgiving Day, the equivalent of 50 million people, according to the International Council for Shopping Centers (ICSC). “That’s a number that you can’t ignore if you’re a retailer,” Jesse Tron, spokesman for the ICSC, said.
Lisa Gomez took advantage of having a day off from her shift as a nurse to enjoy spending time shopping with her family at the Manhattan Mall, just a block south of Herald Square. This was the 30-year-old’s first time shopping on Thanksgiving. She says she may shop online next year to avoid the large crowds.
“It‘s a family thing. We didn't get all the door busters, but it’s fine. I’ll probably do online next year just because it’s hard shopping with a toddler,” said Gomez.
Online Thanksgiving sales started off stronger than expected, driven by early morning deals from traditional brick-and-click retailers. Between midnight and 12 p.m. EST, $423 million dollars were been spent online, representing 29 percent growth vs. the same time period last year, according to Adobe Digital Index. Mobile purchases via smartphones nearly doubled from 7 percent in 2013 to 13 percent this year.
"Thanksgiving morning online sales are coming in at even larger discounts and higher sales volume than predicted. We still expect the total day's online sales to come in less than 1 percent from our original prediction at $1.36 billion," Tamara Gaffney, principal analyst at Adobe Digital Index, said in a note.
Although competition among retailers is becoming fiercer on Thanksgiving Day, Trons says retailers are still far from opening full time on Thanksgiving Day: “I don’t think you’ll necessarily see every retailer opening full time on Thanksgiving Day next year. I think we’re still a ways from that, but you’re certainly seeing the promotional activity surrounding Black Friday spill out into other parts of the holiday calendar.”
Nearly 140 million U.S. consumers are expected to shop this weekend, and 95.5 million people are expected to shop on Black Friday, according to the National Retail Federation. With Cyber Monday just days away, nearly 36 percent of shoppers, or a third of people, said they are planning to shop in physical locations on Cyber Monday instead of purchasing online, the ICSC said.
“Consumers are getting a huge break at the gas pump, where we've seen a pretty precipitous drop in gas prices over the past several months,” said Tron. “Because of that, we’re expecting a lot of positive momentum going into the holiday season.”