CORRECTED-Will U.S. Thanksgiving shopping binge become Black Friday hangover?

Fri Nov 29, 2013 4:45pm EST

(Corrects spelling of town's name to Haverford in 16th
paragraph)
    By Suzanne Barlyn, Phil Wahba, Marina Lopes and Dhanya
Skariachan
    NEW YORK, Nov 29 (Reuters) - An early start to this year's
U.S. holiday Shopping season may not necessarily ring-up bigger
holiday sales for retailers.
    Eager to entice cautious consumers, especially with six
fewer shopping days this year than in 2012, many retailers
offered sales on Thanksgiving, traditionally a day for family,
friends and football games. Even Macy's flagship store in New
York opened at 8 p.m., the first time ever on the American
holiday.
    As a result, some U.S. shoppers may have hit malls and
stores on Thanksgiving, rather than during the traditional
"Black Friday" blitz.
    By late morning, the number of shoppers in many stores more
closely resembled a normal Saturday than the usual frenzied
Black Friday kickoff to the holiday season. 
    "It's a lot less than I thought," said Alison Goodwin, from
Horsham, Pennsylvania, who ventured to the Willow Grove Park
mall the day after Thanksgiving in search of holiday gifts and
maybe a treat for herself.  
    "It's like any weekend in December," Goodwin said of the
size of the crowd. 
    Terry Lundgren, Macy's Inc Chief Executive, said the
Thanksgiving flagship Manhattan store opening lured an estimated
15,000 shoppers. Roughly 11,000 shoppers turned out at the store
for last year's Black Friday midnight open.
    "It's not just spreading out traffic over last year but it's
also increasing it," Lundgren said of the department store
overall. He declined to say how much he expects the additional
shopping to increase sales. 
    The National Retail Federation is predicting that holiday
sales will increase a marginal 3.9 percent to $602.1 billion,
leaving retailers to battle for a bigger slice of that somewhat
larger pie.
    This year's holiday shopping results likely will mimic the
slow-growing U.S. economy and leave little to write home about,
said Can Erbil, an adjunct associate professor of economics at
Boston College.
    "Last year's shopping season was actually pretty bad. The
Connecticut school shootings, Hurricane Sandy, and fiscal cliff
fears really hit the shopping season hard. So the benchmark is
low," Erbil said.
    Thanksgiving proved bright for one sliver of retail - online
sales.
    Overall Thanksgiving online sales were up 19.7 percent from
last year and the average order value was $127.59, according  to
IBM Digital Analytics Benchmark.
       
 
    
    Early Black Friday turnout was thin at Willow Grove Park
mall, in a Philadelphia suburb.
    Early morning shoppers included Emily Arkowitz and Ashlee
Ryan, two friends on their first-ever Black Friday excursion and
browsing at an H&M clothing store at 7:30 a.m. EST. 
    "We walked in thinking that all the clothes would be gone,"
said Arkowitz of Haverford, Pennsylania.  
    The store sold out of many specials, according to a manager,
but many Black Friday deals were still advertised on clothing
racks, including a $4.95 sweater and $14.95 dress.  
    Turned off by crowds and last night's long lines at a nearby
Abercrombie & Fitch, Pranav Trivedi, a shopper from
Willow Grove, Pennsylvania, went home, napped, and returned
early on Friday.
    "I didn't want to waste my time like that," he said.
    While shoppers snapped up sale priced flat-screen
televisions at stores like Target, Walmart and
Best Buy - not everyone was impressed by the "deals"
being touted by retailers.    
    For Luis Figueiro, a retired Brazilian on vacation in New
York, Black Friday ended early. "This is madness," he said,
sitting in a massage chair, pointing at the crowd at Macy's
flagship store on Thanksgiving night. "There are so many people
here, you can't see any of the things on sale."
    His wife, Irene, traveled with him from Rio with Black
Friday deals in mind, but was disappointed to find that many
items were not discounted.  
    "If someone comes without a clear notion of prices, it
awakens something in you. But if you know what the items usually
cost, you aren't fazed," she said. 
    Wal-Mart Stores Inc U.S. Chief Executive Bill Simon said
Thanksgiving visits to its stores surpassed last year's 22
million mark, although a swarm of online shoppers crashed its
online site. 
    "We are encouraged by the start to the Black Friday shopping
weekend," Simon told CNN.

 (Reporting by Suzanne Barlyn in Philadelphia; Dhanya
Skariachan, Phil Wahba, Marina Lopes and David Brunnstrom in New
York; Lisa Baertlein in Los Angeles; editing by Andrew Hay)
A couple walks along the rough surf during sunset at Oahu's North Shore, December 26, 2013. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Find your dream retirement town

Florida? Hawaii? Reuters has teamed up with Zillow to give you the power to customize a list of your best places to retire.  Video | Full Article