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Black Friday Shoppers Flock To Stores To Snag Best Deals

National Retail Federation Predicts Holiday Sales Will Jump Nearly 4 Percent

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – With Thanksgiving over and Chanukah in full effect, the mad rush of the holiday shopping season is officially in full swing with the arrival of Black Friday.

The start of the holiday shopping season has transformed into a two-day event. For nearly a decade, Black Friday had been the official start to the busy buying binge sandwiched between Thanksgiving and Christmas. It was named Black Friday because that was traditionally when retailers turned a profit, or moved out of the red and into the black.

But in the past few years, retailers have pushed opening times into Thanksgiving night.

This year, Toys R Us in Times Square opened at 5 p.m. Thursday and the Target in Hackensack opened its doors at 8 p.m. Thursday. Even Macy’s opened early at 8 p.m. Thanksgiving night, a first in the store’s 155 year history.

EXTRA: CBSNewYork’s Shopping & Style Page

“This year, no turkey, no dinner,” one shopper said.

“I’m working on Black Friday so I decided to come early and get the shopping over and done with,” said shopper Michelle Sylvester.

“I feel like it’s a good opportunity to join in on the fun,” shopper Mayse Wong said.

EXTRA: Gifts Men Don’t Want For The Holidays

On Friday morning, bargain hunters were lugging boxes and bags away at the Queens Center Mall, which decided to open at 8 p.m. Thursday after Macy’s and JCPenney announced they’d be opening on the holiday.

“It really is crunch time for retailers,” said John Scaturro, the Queens Center Mall’s marketing manager.

Shopper Lorena Londono and her friend, Jennifer Gutierrez, told CBS 2’s Don Champion they started shopping at 1a.m.

“It wasn’t as bad as we expected,” Londono said. “I don’t want to deal with the craziness, I don’t want to deal with the people jumping over each other for a T.V.”

Shoppers at the Newport Center Mall in Jersey City were still going strong Friday afternoon, CBS 2’s Vanessa Murdock reported.

The mall opened its doors at 8 p.m. Thursday.

Many shoppers arrived as early as 1 a.m. and were still taking advantage of the deals six hours later, Murdock reported.

“It’s been pretty hectic all day,” one mall employee said. “I’m exhausted, these customers are really giving it to us this year.”

The early openings come as the National Retail Federation predicts holiday sales will jump nearly 4 percent to the $602 billion mark.

With the economy slowly recovering, some shoppers said they’re more comfortable spending money this year compared to recent years.

“This was the first time I’ve done Black Friday,” said Gutierrez.

“I usually get things done last minute, but this year with Black Friday, with all the good sales, I think I got some people off my list,” Londono said.

Hot items this year include video games and iPads, according to the National Retail Federation.

CBS 2’s Janelle Burrell checked in with shoppers to see what deals they cashed in on at the Cross County Center in Yonkers where many stores opened at 8 p.m. Thursday.

“Houseware, bed sheets, towels, a bunch of different things for the house, the house comes first,” one shopper said.

“A lot of clothes, everything is cheap, really cheap,” another shopper said.

Consumer expert Mark LoCastro said this year, with a shorter shopping season between the holidays, this long holiday weekend is the best time to take advantage of huge promotions.

EXTRA: Ultimate Holiday Shopping Guide

Scaturro agreed, saying the shortened holiday shopping window of 26 days will actually benefit shoppers.

“That shortened holiday season is making them [retailers] very aggressive in terms of drawing customers into their stores,” Scaturro said.

LoCastro said deals on Thanksgiving are going to differ than deals on Black Friday versus Cyber Monday.

For instance, if you’re in the market for clothes and shoes, experts said you’re best bet is to shop online on Cyber Monday.

“Cyber Monday is the heavy weight champion when it comes to clothing and shoe deals,” said LoCastro.

If you’re looking for a computer or electronics, the best time to shop is on Black Friday, but consumers should avoid certain stores.

“Do not buy it at the Apple store; if you shop Amazon or Best Buy you have double the percentages off,” LoCastro said.

If you’re looking to buy toys, experts said the two weeks before Christmas is when you’ll see the steepest discounts.

If you’re looking for power tools and appliances, this weekend is for you.

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(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)