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Black Friday Kicks Off Holiday Shopping Season


Millions of Americans have united around at least one activity today - looking for Black Friday deals. NPR's retail correspondent Alina Selyukh is at a shopping plaza in eastern Maryland. And she's with us to talk about the day that has come to mark the start of the holiday shopping season. Hi, Alina.


SHAPIRO: Tell us about where you are and what you've seen today.

SELYUKH: I am in a parking lot of a Walmart Supercenter and a Home Depot. There's also a Ross and a Michael's. Maybe you can hear a little bit of Salvation Army bell-ringing going on. It is so cold here.


SELYUKH: It's been early - not early - low 30s, but, you know, people are still coming out, a pretty heavy throng. Some came with coupons and kind of a specific plan. Others just kind of told me they had nothing else to do, and they wanted to peruse and see what was there. And strangely, a bunch of people like that came out with huge purchases. Brandon Hurst was one such person. I caught him loading a TV into his pickup truck, and he told me he just came out to see what was on sale.

BRANDON HURST: It just so happened we found a TV we wanted. (Laughter).

SELYUKH: Wait. You didn't intend to buy a TV today.




HURST: They had good deals, so you can't pass them up. Now's the time to buy, when it's $200 off.

SELYUKH: The staff here told me that TVs were a big seller, also gaming consoles, which were really popular with the morning crowd - lots of people walking out with kitchen appliances, of course a huge amount of toys. One woman I spoke with was like Hurst She said she just came in to see what was on sale and ended up buying a giant pink carriage for her 3-year-old daughter.

SHAPIRO: OK, so big crowds making big purchases even though it is freezing cold.


SHAPIRO: We've heard so much about online shopping cutting away at Black Friday shoppers. How do sales numbers compare?

SELYUKH: You know, online is the fastest-growing type of shopping, but brick-and-mortar still dominates the holiday sales. Adobe, which tracks online spending, estimates about 1 in 6 dollars will be spent this holiday season online. That said, the National Retail Federation says about a quarter of Black Friday shoppers go out just because it's a tradition.

My colleague over at member station WHYY went out at 6:30 a.m. this morning to a mall in suburban Philadelphia. And he spoke with Sheila Brantley, who drove out almost an hour to go shopping.

SHEILA BRANTLEY: Well, when you go online, it takes the fun out of coming out, watching everybody try to rush and get their sizes and find out what's, you know - it just takes all the rush out of it. You want to come out here. You want to see people.

SELYUKH: So for how much Black Friday gets a bad rap among people who say it's kind of a, you know, fake consumerist holiday, there's also a big contingent of people who love it. And the deals, they find them pretty irresistible.

SHAPIRO: Yeah, I guess different people have different ideas of fun. When you look past Black Friday at the holiday shopping season more broadly, what are people anticipating?

SELYUKH: Well, you know, this year is promising to be really, really huge for shopping. The retail industry is extremely thrilled looking ahead. We are now in this super-marketed stretch of these made-up shopping holidays. Tomorrow is Small Business Saturday. Then we got Cyber Monday, which is the biggest online shopping day of the year. Earlier this week, I spoke with John Copeland. He's with Adobe, and here's what he told me.

JOHN COPELAND: The golden hours of online retail will be between 7 and 10 p.m. Pacific on Cyber Monday.

SELYUKH: He says in just those three hours of online shopping - sort of the time when everyone came home from work where they'd been perusing online sales - people will spend $1.2 billion online, estimated, which is more than in the entire average day other times of the year.

We're in consumer confidence at highest levels since the early 2000s. We got extra days to shop this year until Christmas, and the National Retail Federation projects that Americans are going to spend an average of more than $1,000 in holiday shopping this year.

SHAPIRO: All right, NPR's retail correspondent Alina Selyukh, joining us from her spot at a shopping plaza in eastern Maryland on this Black Friday. Alina, go get warm. Thanks.

SELYUKH: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Alina Selyukh is a business correspondent at NPR, where she follows the path of the retail and tech industries, tracking how America's biggest companies are influencing the way we spend our time, money, and energy.