RALEIGH, NC/NEW YORK, Nov 25 (Reuters) – After Thanksgiving turkey was digested, shoppers were expected to show up in record numbers to look for Black Friday deals. However, bad weather meant few crowds could be seen outside the stores on what was historically the busiest shopping day of the year.
“So far, only about 20 people have gone through the self-checkout,” said Jimena Silva, a Target employee in Raleigh, North Carolina, who experienced heavy rain between 6 a.m. and 8 a.m. Friday.
Silva, 23, said she’s had more customers visiting the store in recent years but expects footfall to pick up later in the day.
An estimated 166.3 million people are planning to shop from Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday this year, up nearly 8 million from last year, according to the National Retail Federation.
But with sporadic rain in some parts of the country, shops were less busy than usual on Black Friday morning.
In Times Square, New York City, which was overcast with an occasional light rain, employees were seen in stores waiting for crowds that had not previously arrived.
Outside of the American Dream mall in East Rutherford, New Jersey, there were no lines outside the stores. A ToysRUS employee was seen walking through the mall handing out flyers listing Black Friday door breakers.
However, those who made it into the mall were surprised by the offerings on offer.
“There are many offers that have not been advertised. I got 50% off everything I bought at some stores,” said Christine Chavez, 45, of Monmouth County, New Jersey. She added that she mainly shops for gifts and has picked up items from Victoria Secret and Torrid.
“I was hesitant to come to the mall and I have to say I’m pleasantly surprised.”
Retailers are offering deep discounts both online and in-store, which could hurt profit margins in the fourth quarter.
Average online Thanksgiving discount rates in the United States were 29%, according to data from Salesforce, up 6% from a year ago, which helped boost sales by 3% to $7.1 billion.
Walmart has ramped up marketing for the holiday, buying ad space on Twitter and Instagram, during National Football League games and on billboards near Penn Station in New York City, hoping to get shoppers to come early and often shopping on Black Friday.
Rival Amazon (AMZN.O) also offered a plethora of deals on its marketplace, including up to 42% off Roomba vacuums, 45% off Calvin Klein men’s t-shirts, and up to 50% off Chromebooks by Lenovo. HP, Acer and Asus.
But the online retailer may have bigger concerns as workers at Amazon locations around the world, including in the United States, Germany and France, have been urged to go on Black Friday strike with demands for better pay.
Americans, particularly those from low-income households, are expected to pull back from their holiday shopping this year as inflation and higher energy prices limit their purchasing power.
A survey of nearly 1,700 US consumers by S&P Global Market Intelligence shows that 26% of respondents are trying 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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