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Black Friday Isn’t What it Used to be, Say US Consumers

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Turnout at U.S. retailers was relatively subdued on Black Friday, with many shoppers flocking to stores to eye items in person and enjoy the festive atmosphere while waiting to do their actual bargain hunting online.

There were few signs of the over-the-top frenzy that had been a hallmark of the start to the U.S. shopping season in years past, and some stores appeared to be getting creative with gimmicks beyond heavy discounts to lure shoppers through their doors.

"Black Friday isn't what it used to be because stores are extending their sales into the weekend and you can shop online," said Unmesh Patel, 30, a project manager. "I also come for the rush even though it lessens every year."

Some shoppers, however, still brawled over deals, with one 19-year-old reportedly shot outside a mall in Columbia, Missouri, late Thursday night.

The Riverchase Galleria in Hoover, Alabama, outside Birmingham, said police had to be called to break up a fight at about 11:30 p.m. Thursday between two women who might have been trying to get the same sale item in a store.

In fact, most of the action surrounding the door-buster holiday took place on Thursday rather than Friday.

A Macy's employee in Paramus, New Jersey, said it was less busy on Friday because the store had been open, and packed, on Thursday.

Online shopping, too, was higher than ever on Thursday.

U.S. shoppers had spent more than $1.52 billion online by Thanksgiving evening, a 16.8 percent year-over-year increase in online spending, by 5 p.m. (2200 GMT) on Thanksgiving, according to Adobe Analytics, which tracked 80 percent of online transactions at the top 100 U.S. retailers.

Online demand may help make up for lackluster store traffic, and even the subdued in-store activity this year marked an improvement over recent years.

Macy's Inc Chief Executive Jeff Gennette told CNBC on Friday that the retailer was better off this year than last, had robust online demand and was in a good place for holiday promotions, sending the retailer's shares up more than 4 percent in early trading.

JC Penney Co climbed 1.8 percent, while Target Corp and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. edged higher.

The period between the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday and Christmas can make or a break a retailer, accounting for as much as 40 percent of total revenue for the year.

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