Black Friday isn't over, but the doorbuster deals are. I spent most of last night going from line to line and talking with holiday shoppers ahead of the rush. As soon as I got home, grabbed my coffee and finished my article it was time to go again. Five AM was coming around, and the doors of my local Best Buy were minutes from opening.
When I arrived the line stretched all the way behind the building, at least a couple of hundred people. There were police officers, news vans and even a girl from the radio with a portable broadcasting set-up. Best Buy had already handed out vouchers to people standing in line for doorbuster deals, but the crowd was rowdy and excited nonetheless. As 5:00 AM rolled up, the doors started to open...
...and things proceeded in an orderly fashion. It took around ten minutes for the whole line to filter inside the store. I took video, but catastrophic SD card failure (I messed up while transferring files at 6 AM on no sleep) ended up killing it. Fortunately, I took another video of the Best Buy tent city at around 1:30 AM. It's pretty...something.
I wasn't the only one having a big Black Friday. Retailers across the U.S. reported record-breaking sales, and it is possible that 2010 may be the largest Black Friday yet. Macy's flagship store in NYC saw 7,000 shoppers as opposed to merely 5,000. Target, Staples and the Taubman mall empire all saw increased traffic and sales. Analysts estimate sales are up from 2.3% to 5% this year.
Online sales were also up- a LOT. Paypal noticed a 25% bump in payment volume processing. 138 million people are expected to shop between Friday and Saturday. Last year's number was 134 million. Longer lines and more shoppers lead to crazy crowds and lots of stress. The occasional blow-up is inevitable.
A woman in Wisconsin was arrested at a Toys 'R' Us on Black Friday morning. She attempted to cut in line several times. When other customers confronted her, she threatened to retrieve a firearm and blast her way to the head of the line.
"She's now spending her shopping money to post bond," said a local police Sergeant.
Electronics buyers on Black Friday were mainly interested in deals on things like 32" and 42" HDTVs and dirt cheap laptops. Gifts for children and spouses that could only be considered affordable with a major discount. In a way, the bad economy could be the reason we're seeing such a blockbuster Black Friday weekend. Deals matter more when you have to stretch your cash.
And Cyber Monday looks to be just as exceptional. Nine in ten retailers are planning to hold special deals. 88% of retailers have deals planned for Monday, as opposed to 72.2% two years ago. 62% of retailers plan to offer Cyber Monday deals via special emails, while 21.6% look to give free shipping. Some 54.5% of workers with Internet access plan to do some of their shopping while 'on the clock'.
For more information, check out our ongoing Cyber Monday coverage.