Thanksgiving Day deals could be stealing Black Friday’s thunder

Customers walks outside Macy's Herald Square after the store opened its doors at 8 pm Thanksgiving day in New York City.

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Customers walks outside Macy’s Herald Square after the store opened its doors at 8 pm Thanksgiving day in New York City.

Shoppers pulled out their phones and shopped on Thanksgiving Day to spend more than they ever have before, potentially stealing some of Black Friday’s thunder.

Consumers in the U.S. had spent $1.75 billion online by 5 p.m. ET Thursday, up more than 28 percent from a year ago, according to Adobe Analytics, which tracks transactions of 80 of the top 100 internet retailers. Adobe said online sales on Thanksgiving Day are expected to hit a record $3.7 billion.

In addition to spending a record amount online, shoppers were also seen lining up in throngs around the country outside of stores Thursday evening. That was despite record-cold temperatures blanketing much of the Northeast.

With many doors opening earlier and retailers like TargetMacy’s and Walmart dolling out doorbusters unique to Thursday, it “appear[s] to have enticed consumers to spend a little earlier,” Taylor Schreiner, director of Adobe Digital Insights, said.

J.C. Penney opened its doors at 2 p.m. ET Thursday, while Best BuyKohl’s, Macy’s and Target opened at 5 p.m., and Walmart’s deals started at 6 p.m., though shoppers could stroll through Walmart stores and receive free cookies and coffee even earlier.

More than 200 people, including many families, were lined up outside of a Target store Thursday evening in Minnetonka, Minnesota, before its doors opened. Items like the Nintendo Switch, L.O.L. Surprise!, $10 giant plush teddy bears and Apple watches were hot sellers. The company also said in a blog post that many shoppers this year took advantage of special deals for credit-card holders that went live Wednesday on, pulling spending even earlier.

Walmart chief merchandising officer Steve Bratspies said “traffic was steady” all Thursday night long in stores across the country. The company, meanwhile, launched its online deals Wednesday evening at 10 p.m., two hours earlier than in 2017. Bratspies said “millions” of people were shopping, though there were also reports of the website experiencing delays. It was working again by Friday morning.

With so many deals taking place earlier in the week, Black Friday could be losing some of its luster.

“Here at the mall, it has been remarkably slow to be honest,” Kerri Sapp, senior manager of Deloitte, told CNBC Friday morning. Sapp was inside Lenox Square in Atlanta. She said shoppers were starting to file in “as they woke up,” but there were no long lines, like many people witnessed Thursday evening at big-box stores. The longest line in the mall Black Friday morning was at a Starbucks coffee shop, she said.

Fifty-seven percent of shoppers are planning to buy online this holiday season, compared with 36 percent in stores, Deloitte found in its annual holiday survey that polled roughly 4,030 consumers in September. Sixty percent of those people surveyed said they planned to start shopping for the holidays before Thanksgiving, and those same consumers will spend 28 percent more, or $370, than people who procrastinate.

The National Retail Federation is predicting holiday sales gains will be better than a five-year average of 3.9 percent. It expects a bump ranging from 4.3 percent to 4.8 percent.

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