Stephen Lebovitz, CEO of CBL Properties, which owns and manages more than 100 malls nationwide, says the crowds have been building all day and are similar to a year ago. As of 10am EST (3pm GMT), online sales already reached US$767 million, up by 19.2 percent from a year ago.
"Prices and discounts online are competitive to what's available in stores", he added. It is also a sign of how Thursday evening store openings have continued to hurt what has traditionally been a day that kicked off the USA holiday season.
Adobe Analytics says that online spending hit new records on Thanksgiving Day, reaching $4.2 billion. That compares with an average annual increase of 3.7% over the past five years. Adobe Analytics, which measures transactions from 80 of the top 100 USA online retailers, estimates US$7.5 billion in sales for Black Friday online, a growth of over 20.5 per cent year-over-year.
As online sales surged, some retailers including Costco.com and H&M grappled with brief outages, according to technology company Catchpoint.
"If you have not load tested your site at five times normal traffic volumes, your site will probably fail".
Costco is now flagging "longer than normal response time" on its website.
The American holiday shopping season was officially opened with a flood of "Black Friday" promotions, but the insane crowds of the past have thinned out with the rise of e-commerce.
Shoppers up since the wee hours slept in chairs at Nashville's Opry Mills mall, known for its outlet stores.
Sides acknowledged there are no new must haves and numerous big items like Instant Pot, a leader in the slow cooker category, were highlighted in past Black Friday circulars.
Clothing is at the top of end-of-year shopping lists.
While store traffic still remains an important indicator, a lot of shopping during Thanksgiving and Black Friday now happens online. "It is the most critical barometer of spending".
Sales between November and December are expected to increase between 3.8 percent and 4.2 percent compared with past year despite the 18 percent drop in the number of days of the old-school Thanksgiving to Christmas holiday shopping, according to the National Retail Federation.
Holiday season shopping started early this year, as retailers began offering discounts earlier than usual, in the hope of making up for a shorter holiday season which is six days less between Thanksgiving and Christmas than last year.
That means customers will have less time to shop and retailers will have less time to woo them.
NRF expects online and catalog sales, which are included in the total, to increase between 11% and 14% for the holiday period.