Unlike past years, this year we are dealing with not only the pandemic but also supply chain issues and inflation.
"It seems like we saved a lot of money," said Queens Center Mall shopper Sarah Marmol.
Hamza Hasan came to the mall with his parents.
"They filled the whole entire cart," he told Eyewitness News reporter Kristin Thorne.
While the mall was packed with people, many of them were not carrying the typical bags upon bags of sale items.
"It just depends on what you need and what you want to afford today," one shopper said.
Retail experts will be watching the numbers from this Black Friday to see how many people shopped in physical stores this year. Experts believe most people already did their holiday shopping online throughout the month of November due to fears over the supply chain. In addition, most retailers are now pushing Black Friday deals online.
Video showed the moment Macy's opened the doors to its flagship store in Midtown Manhattan at 6 a.m. after being closed on Thanksgiving Day.
A large crowd rushed in.
It was a similar scene at the Garden State Plaza, which opened earlier this morning to customers.
Across the Hudson River, the American Dream Mall in East Rutherford, New Jersey opened an hour later at 7 a.m.
It was the mall's first year opening early for Black Friday, with more than 150 high-end and regular retail stores.
Alex Ferreira was the first man in line at the Foot Locker.
"Looking for anything I can make money on," he said. "This is what I do."
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Many came with stacks of cash, ready to hunt down bargains.
To cope with supply chain shortages, many retailers did whatever they could to get stock in as early as possible, especially high-demand items like sneakers.
"Our retail partners have prepared," said the American Dream Mall's Melissa Howard. "We're here. We are ready for everyone."
Shoppers are expected to pay on average of between 5% to 17% more for toys, clothing, appliances, TVs and others purchases on Black Friday this year compared with last year, according to Aurelien Duthoit, senior sector advisor at Allianz Research.
TVs will see the highest price hike on average, up 17% from a year ago, according to the research firm. That's because whatever discounts available will be applied to goods that are already expensive.
"I think it is going to be a messy holiday season," said Neil Saunders, managing director at GlobalData Retail. "It will be a bit frustrating for retailers, consumers and the workers. We are going to see long lines. We are going to see messier stores. We are going to see delays as you collect online orders."
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For years, Black Friday has been losing importance. Since 2011, stores jumpstarted the holiday shopping season by opening their doors on Thanksgiving to compete with Amazon and other rising online threats. But the shift merely cannibalized Black Friday sales. The shopping bonanza was further diluted when stores started marketing Black Friday sales for the full week and then later for the month.
The pandemic further diminished the importance of the Black Friday event, though some experts still believe it will again be the busiest day of the year. Last year, retailers started to offer the big holiday sales earlier in October in an effort to spread out shopping for safety reasons and to smooth out online shipping peaks.
They also got rid of the Thanksgiving Day in-store shopping event and pushed all their discounts online. This year, retailers are embracing a similar strategy, though they are now pushing holiday discounts in stores as well.
Despite all the challenges, experts believe that sales for the Thanksgiving week and overall season will be strong.
U.S. retail sales, excluding auto and gas, from this past Monday through Sunday are expected to increase 10% from last year and 12.2% from the 2019 holiday season, according to Mastercard SpendingPulse, which measures overall retail sales across all payment types including cash and check.
Online sales are forecast to increase 7.1% for that week, a slowdown from the massive 46.4% gain in the same period a year ago when shoppers collectively pivoted to the internet instead of shopping in person, according to Mastercard. For the overall holiday season, online sales should increase 10% from a year ago, compared with a 33% increase last year, according to Adobe Digital Economy Index.
Sales on Black Friday are expected to surge 20% from a year ago as store traffic comes back.
For the November and December period, the National Retail Federation, the nation's largest retail trade group, predicts that sales will increase between 8.5% and 10.5%. Holiday sales increased 8.2% in 2020 when shoppers, locked down during the early part of the pandemic, spent their money on pajamas and home goods.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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