New York — Black Friday has become the part two of the kick-off to the holiday shopping season, with stores opening earlier on Thanksgiving.

Here’s a look at what’s happening around the country:

Best Buy site back up

Best Buy’s website seemed to be back up and running at around 11:30 a.m. eastern, after going down for more than an hour Friday with a message that read, “WE’RE SORRY.”

“A concentrated spike in mobile traffic” prompted the company to shut down so it could restore full performance, said Best Buy spokesman Jeff Shelman in an email.

Last week, Best Buy CEO Hubert Joly had said he expected competition for shoppers to be “intense.” He forecast flat revenue for the fourth quarter.

Black Friday arrests

Two women have been arrested after an early morning Black Friday fight among shoppers at a Southern California store.

Tustin Police Sergeant Ryan Coe told City News Service that a disturbance was reported at a Kohl’s department store around 1 a.m. Two female victims were located on the second floor near the baby section and two suspects were found on the first floor.

Coe says it appears the four women got into an argument and a physical altercation ensued. He says one victim was taken to a hospital as a precaution. He did not know the nature of her injuries.

Wal-Mart protests

About 100 protesters outside a Wal-Mart in downtown Chicago called on the company to pay its workers $15 an hour and provide more full-time positions.

“Wal-Mart, Wal-Mart, you’re no good! Treat your workers like you should!” they chanted.

It’s the latest round of protests to hit Wal-Mart, with organizers saying demonstrations are planned for 1,600 locations Friday. The union-backed group Our Walmart said workers started walking off the job on Wednesday and some staged a sit-down strike at a store in Washington, D.C.

Brooke Buchanan, a Wal-Mart spokeswoman, said the company is not aware of anyone walking off the job. She said “a handful” of people worked their shifts before joining demonstrations.

Biggest shopping day of the year?

Since 2005, Black Friday has held the crown for the top sales day of the year, according to ShopperTrak, which tracks data at 70,000 stores globally.

That could change this year. The earlier openings on Thanksgiving are eating into Black Friday sales. As a result, the last Saturday before Christmas may edge out Black Friday as the biggest shopping day of the year.

Still, Bill Martin, co-founder of ShopperTrak, believes Black Friday and the Saturday before Christmas will be a close tie. He estimates both sales days will be in the $9 billion range.

Over at Macy’s, CEO Terry Lundgren tells The Associated Press he thinks Black Friday will still be the company’s biggest sales day of the year.

The Mall is still open

The Mall of America says it drew 100,000 customers between 5 p.m. on Thanksgiving and 1 a.m. Friday.

Dan Jasper, a spokesman for the mall in Bloomington, Minnesota, says traffic slowed down after 2 a.m. but has been picking up again as the day progresses. The goal to keep in mind: the 230,000 visitors the mall attracted in the Thursday to Friday period last year.

“We think we can break that record,” Jasper tells The Associated Press.

Ferguson protests at stores

Dozens of protesters interrupted Missouri shoppers on Thanksgiving to speak out about a grand jury’s decision not to indict the white officer who fatally shot Michael Brown, a black teenager.

Demonstrations took place at a Target and multiple Wal-Mart stores in the St. Louis area, according to Johnetta Elzie, who tweeted and posted videos of the protests.

Protesters spent a few minutes shouting inside at each store. After police moved them out of one Wal-Mart, protesters chanted, “no justice, no peace, no racist police” and “no more Black Friday.”

There was no immediate word of arrests. More demonstrations are expected Friday.

U.K. gets Black Friday, shoving included

Americans aren’t the only ones searching for deals on Black Friday; the shopping derby is becoming a tradition in the United Kingdom as well.

And just like in the U.S., businesses across the Atlantic are finding it can lead to chaos. Early Friday morning, police were called to help maintain security at some supermarkets and shopping outlets that offered deep discounts starting at midnight.

“This created situations where we had to deal with crushing, disorder and disputes between customers,” said Peter Fahy, police chief for greater Manchester, where police were summoned to seven Tesco supermarkets after disturbances.

Greater Manchester Police said two arrests were made and injuries reported as police closed some stores to prevent more severe problems. One woman was injured by a falling television set.

Online retailer Amazon is believed to have introduced the concept of Black Friday to the U.K. four years ago, with more businesses joining every year since.

Crowd control

Back in the U.S., businesses are taking steps to keep crowds under control. Such efforts were stepped up after 2008, when a Wal-Mart worker died after a stampede of shoppers.

Best Buy, for instance, has a ticketing and line process that starts two hours before doorbusters to ensure an orderly entrance into its stores. The company also says stores held training sessions last weekend to prep for this weekend’s rush.

At Target, deals are spread throughout the stores and signs direct shoppers to hot items. And the company says every store has a crowd-management captain for inside and outside the store.

That doesn’t mean everyone remembers their manners.

Wendy Iscra noted it got a little competitive at Wal-Mart in a Chicago suburb where she where she was shopping Thanksgiving.

“People were shoving each other in there,” the 40-year-old said.

Early-bird special

The National Retail Federation expected 25.6 million shoppers to head to stores on Thanksgiving, which would be slightly down from last year. The numbers aren’t in yet, there were crowds across the country.

In the Chicago suburb of Naperville, Illinois, the parking lot of a Wal-Mart store was full roughly 30 minutes before Thanksgiving deals started at 6 p.m., including $199 iPad minis.

Macy’s said more than 15,000 people were lined up outside its flagship location in New York City’s Herald Square when the doors opened at 6 p.m.

And thousands of people were at Citadel Outlets in Los Angeles, which opened at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving for a “Moonlight Madness” all-night sale. Hordes of cars inched past rows of palm trees wrapped in red and white lights.

A visit from the boss at Target

Target CEO Brian Cornell was at a story in New York City’s East Harlem neighborhood for its opening at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving.

Cornell, who became chief executive in August, said the kickoff to the season is off to a good start based on early reads around the country.

“The baskets are full,” he said as he watched shoppers filling their carts with TVs, clothing and toys. He noted people were buying more than just deals.

Cornell told The Associated Press he feels encouraged by what he has seen at stores and online. The holiday kickoff has changed, he said. “It’s been more of a week event,” he said.

It may be too late

Those waking early for some Black Friday shopping may have missed the boat.

It turns out the hottest deals of the season may be on Thanksgiving, according to an analysis of sales data and store circulars by two research firms.

Wendy Iscra was doing a little happy dance Thanksgiving night after she left the Wal-Mart in Naperville, Illinois, with her husband. They had just snagged one of the limited number of iPad minis on sale, as well as a Disney Infinity 2.0 toy box for their 6-year-old daughter. They saved about $100 on the two items.

Buyer’s remorse?

When stores first started opening on Thanksgiving a few years ago, the move was met with resistance by those who thought the holiday should remain sacred.

Some Thanksgiving shoppers still felt a tinge of guilt even as they snagged deals on the holiday. “I think it’s ridiculous stores open on Thanksgiving,” said Reggie Thomas, 44, a director who bought a Sony sound bar for $349, about $100 off, at Best Buy in New York on Thanksgiving.

Cathyliz Lopez, 20, who spent $700 at Target on Thanksgiving, agrees. “It’s ruining the spirit of Thanksgiving,” she said Thursday. “But … the best deals were today.”

Sales bang

Black Friday is also one of the biggest days of the year for gun sales.

That puts pressure on the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, which is run by a division of the FBI. NICS researchers have until the end of the third business day following an attempted firearm purchase to determine whether a buyer is eligible. After that, buyers have the right to get their guns even if the check wasn’t completed.

Last year, the clock ran out more than 186,000 times.

The problem is the records submitted by states, which aren’t always updated to reflect restraining orders or other reasons to deny a sale.

NICS did about 58,000 checks on a typical day last year, with the figure surging to 145,000 on Black Friday.


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