Tariffs loom, a presidential impeachment inquiry is underway and familiar retail names, from Forever 21 to Sears, are shuttering stores across the country.
That’s not stopping the holiday shopping frenzy from getting underway as many stores flung their doors open before the turkey could get cold.
Black Friday shopping is kicking off in stores on Thanksgiving for several major retailers and online for all. The deal shopping was so intense that Costco’s website and app had issues Thursday.
Store opening times vary. Kmart and Big Lots welcomed shoppers in the morning. The majority of stores opening Thursday will open by 6 p.m.
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At a J.C. Penney in Merritt Island, Florida, shoppers started lining up before noon for a coupon giveaway at 2 p.m. By the time the store opened, hundreds had lined up.
Jessica Mize of North Fort Myers, Florida, said she rescheduled Thanksgiving to shop Thursday. The mother of four arrived at Best Buy around 10:30 a.m. Thursday, one of the first people in line for the store’s Black Friday deals, which included a 58-inch TV for $199.
Moving her family’s Thanksgiving made preparing and eating the meal more relaxing, she said, hoping it would make her shopping more relaxing, too.
“There’s still pressure,” Mize said, noting that she has just a few weeks to wrap her gifts and hadn’t yet purchased any wrapping paper. “I hate wrapping, but if I want it done right and I want it done pretty, I have to do it myself.”
Holiday shopping isn’t just about doorbuster deals on televisions and toys.
Grocery stores were busy as some picked up forgotten ingredients and in Renee Curry’s case, a new turkey.
Curry of Mohegan Lake, New York, bought a fresh, not frozen 14-pound turkey at a nearby Stop & Shop because the 22-pound Butterball she had been thawing since Saturday was not fully defrosted.
Upon learning her turkey was still frozen, Curry’s first thought was punctuated by an expletive. “And I don’t even like turkey.”
Some used the time before the sales to prepare.
Aidan Sanchez was at the Mohegan Lake, New York, Walmart hours before the sale started at 6 p.m. to get ideas on possible gifts to buy his family for Christmas.
“I wanted to get a head start because tomorrow is going to be frantic,” Sanchez said. “I had nothing else to do this morning, so this’ll give me a head start on my Christmas shopping.”
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Black Friday has evolved from a signature, one-day shopping bonanza to an event that kicks off days, even weeks, earlier.
Though some Americans reserve Thanksgiving for feasting and family, major retailers, including Best Buy, Target, Macy’s and for the first time Bed Bath & Beyond, have in-store specials for those who want to shop on the holiday.
Thanksgiving falls on Nov. 28 this year – the latest calendar date for the holiday – so shoppers have the tightest window possible to get all of their shopping done and six fewer days than in 2018.
Shoppers are expected to spend $728 billion to $731 billion in November and December, 3.8% to 4.2% more than they did last year, according to the National Retail Federation, an industry trade group.
Other industry watchers such as the site eMarketer predict the total tally could be even higher, topping out at more than $1 trillion.
Among those venturing out to visit an actual store this weekend – some braving snowy weather conditions – 26% will go on Thanksgiving Day, and 70% will do their shopping on Black Friday, according to the consultancy Deloitte.
When it comes to purchasing online, 33% will do so during the holiday, and 54% intend to shop online on Black Friday.
Despite those holiday plans, economic unease is in the air.
The economic climate may help spur the zeal for deals. Among those shopping online or heading to a store Black Friday, 77% say they will make a purchase only if the item is on sale, and 75% say the same goes for shopping on Cyber Monday, according to a USA TODAY/Ipsos poll.
Though some Black Friday doorbuster deals are available only if you visit an actual store, online browsing is increasingly the preference for shoppers.
This is the first holiday season that a majority of shoppers – 54% – say they will do more of their purchasing online than in person, compared with 46% who plan to tick off their holiday lists more often at an actual store, according to the consultancy PwC.
Contributing: Kevin Wheeler, USA TODAY; Ryan Mills and Liz Freeman, Naples Daily News; Malcolm Denemark, Florida Today
Follow USA TODAY reporters Charisse Jones and Kelly Tyko on Twitter: @charissejones and @KellyTyko