EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Black Friday shoppers were out early to get a shot at some of the best deals.

CBS2’s Christina Fan caught up with people outside the American Dream Mall in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The young crowd said clothing and shoes appear to be the most popular choices this year.

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It’s beginning to look a lot like… 2019, as businesses are expected to welcome more than 158 million shoppers for Black Friday weekend.

“Foot Locker, Champs, Foot Action,” one shopper told Fan.

“Right for the shoes, straight steals and deals, let’s go,” another added

“Limited items, limited items,” said another.

Toy shop owner Maryam Al Hammami said despite product shortages and price hikes fueled by supply chain snarls, she’s expecting a promising season.

“I’m up 100% in sales from 2019,” she said.

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Analysts say a combination of job growth, stimulus checks and monthly child tax credits are helping consumers weather the highest inflation in three decades.

“Prices are high, but people don’t seem to really bother with that. In fact, our last retail sales report showed a strong spending across lots of categories, even accounting for higher prices,” CBS News Business Analyst Jill Schlesinger reported. “So I think it’s going to be a strong season.”

Especially strong for in-person shopping, which is expected to increase more than 14% compared to 2020.

Last year, brick and mortar stores struggled to attract crowds. The line at Macy’s Herald Square was so short on Black Friday, shoppers were shocked to find themselves first.

“Because of the virus, a lot of people stayed home. That’s why I’m first in line,” said Anita Fritz, of Jamaica, Queens. “They should be giving us some gifts.”

One trend that has caught retailers and police off guard is a rash of high-end theft. Officials say organized crime rings are running in, smashing counters, and stealing luxury items, then selling them online.

For local shoppers looking to walk off their Thanksgiving turkey, American Dream Mall has over 200 stores and lots of attractions. The first 500 people through the door will get free tickets for those attractions.

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Starting this Saturday, CBS2 will be highlighting small businesses throughout the Tri-State Area, showcasing their offerings and supporting their efforts to bounce back from the pandemic. 

Christina Fan