Shop 'til you drop: Black Friday in full swing across the country

Ellison Barber, WUSA-TV, Washington, D.C.; Tonya Maxwell, Asheville Citizen-Times; Hannah Davis, WFAA-TV, Dallas
Customers check out at a Walmart store in Bentonville, Arkansas, with their Black Friday items on Thursday, Nov. 24, 2016. This year, Walmart stocked its digital and physical aisles with more than 1.5 million televisions, nearly two million tablets and computers and three million video games.

While many may have wondered whether Black Friday was dead, the shopping frenzy was well and alive in many cities across the country.

According to the National Retail Federation, holiday sales are expected to increase 3.6% to $655.8 billion this year, slightly higher than the seven-year average of 3.4% since recovery from the Great Recession began in 2009. NRF defines holiday sales as those occurring in the months of November and December.

The frenzied post-Thanksgiving shopping experience that traditionally draws shoppers out of the house before dawn was in full swing Thursday as people lined up outside local department stores and electronic shops for Black Friday sales.

In Oxon Hill, Md., Black Friday started early at the Tanger outlets, where shoppers began hitting the shelves around 6 p.m.

From the outlets to Best Buy, people marched in and out of stores, collecting bags at every stop. Most lived in the area, but some came far, far away.

"Rionagh Walsh, good Irish name," said Walsh, who hails from Dublin, Ireland. "You would be shocked at the amount of money we've spent here in the last two hours. We bought loads. Jewelry. Handbags. Sketchers,” Walsh said. “Anything that would be of great value for us here that wouldn't be in Dublin."

Black Friday isn't over yet: Get great deals before they run out

In Asheville, hundreds of people lined up for a 4 p.m. opening at Belk, celebrated by fashionistas for offering boots at $19.99.

Among them was Keish Talbert of Asheville, who last year bought seven or eight pairs, and hopes this year, among other booty, to win a $1,000 gift card offered at the store.

This Thanksgiving shopping day is about finding great deals for herself and her daughter, she said, not worrying about Christmas shopping.

"If they want something they should have been here," she laughed.

But behind her, Carrie Spicer of Candler said she and her daughter will ignore the boot display at the front of the store to check off items on their Christmas list. She expects to knock about half of it out with a watch for her husband, a jacket for one friend and a comforter set for another among other items.

Shoppers wait outside of JCPenney which opened at 3 p.m. for early Black Friday deals at the Laguna Hills Mall, Thursday, Nov. 24, 2016, in Laguna Hills, Calif.

"We go right past the boots," she said. "They'll be fighting over them, and I can head to household and there will be hardly anyone there," she said, and looks forward to saving about $150 compared to shopping for the same items on another day.

But Black Friday is no longer just a day. Online many stores began rolling out early Black Friday deals, and the price gouging will continue with Cyber Monday deals.

Online shopping got off to a brisk start on Thursday.  Shoppers spent $1.15 billion online between midnight and 5 p.m. ET,  a 13.6% increase over last year, reported Adobe Digital Insights. Adobe is forecasting Thanksgiving Day online sales to hit $2 billion for the first time, a 15.6% year-over-year growth increase. A record $820 million is expected to come from mobile devices, with $449 million spent by 5 p.m. ET.

And while some stores have remained closed on Thanksgiving to give employees time with family, others have opened earlier and earlier leading many shoppers to call the Thursday before Thanksgiving, "Gray Thursday."

In Dallas, Best Buy and Toys 'R Us both opened Thursday afternoon, and both had lines of customers waiting to go inside. Monica Blair says she was expecting the beat the crowds and was surprised by how many people showed up.

"I figured everyone would be at home watching the game, but I was wrong," Blair said.

Holiday Spending Headquarters

Some shoppers say they feel bad for employees who have to work instead of spending time with family at home, but they say the deals are too good to pass up.

But as more stores open on Thanksgiving, some shoppers say Black Friday is losing its luster.

"You don't see those crazy lines or people camping out any more, and I think it's because everything is starting earlier and earlier," Blair said.

Contributing: Ellison Barber, WUSA-TV, Washington, D.C.; Tonya Maxwell, Asheville Citizen-Times; Hannah Davis, WFAA-TV, Dallas.