And theyre off! Black Friday, the Super Bowl of shopping, kicks off holiday season

https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2018/11/23/tech-tops-black-friday-launches-holiday-shopping-season/2056063002/?utm_source=google&utm_medium=amp&utm_campaign=speakable

And they’re off.  

The holiday shopping frenzy has officially begun with the five-day stretch that starts on Thanksgiving and crosses the finish line Cyber Monday. And in the age of Amazon, retailers are increasingly turning to tech to make shopping, whether online or in an actual store, as quick and simple as possible.

This year marks the first time Macy’s will have mobile checkout at all of its stores. The Gap, Old Navy, Banana Republic, and Athleta also are equipping employees at most locations with devices to check out customers on the spot.

And at Walmart, a digital map within the store app will pinpoint the exact location where a customer can find the doll or sweater they’re looking for. The map will be color coded for Black Friday to make the search even simpler. 

Such shortcuts are critical. A survey by consultancy Deloitte found that 27 percent of those polled would tap into alternate checkout options — like using a smartphone to scan and pay for purchase as they shop, or buying online, then picking the gift up at a store — to skip long check out lines.

And while shoppers should check because store hours may vary, those willing to brave the cold can start grabbing doorbusters before the sun comes up Friday.

Bass Pro Shops, Lord & Taylor and Sears are among the retailers opening at 5 a.m., while Home Depot, Kmart, Big Lots and Boscov’s will start welcoming customers an hour later.   

Target and T.J. Maxx will open at 7 a.m., and J.C. Penney, which opened on Thanksgiving Day, will keep the sales going until 10 p.m. Most Walmart stores will be open for 24 hours straight.

There’s a lot of money on the line. Nearly 20 percent of retail sales last year occurred during the holiday season, and it’s expected that shoppers will spend roughly $717 billion to $721 billion this year, an uptick of 4.3 percent to 4.8 percent over 2017, according to the National Retail Federation.  

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Black Friday has waned in recent years, its power dulled as retailers launch holiday sales days or weeks earlier, with many stores opening their doors in the midst of the Thanksgiving Day feast. And since 2014, the Saturday before Christmas, known as “Super Saturday,” has surpassed Black Friday in sales, a trend that the NRF expects to continue this year.

But Black Friday still packs a punch. Of the more than 164 million Americans who intend to shop over Thanksgiving weekend, 71 percent, or 116 million, have said they intend to buy and browse on Black Friday, more than any other day, the NRF says. 

Most sales still happen in actual stores, but online spending continues to grow at a faster clip. Over Thanksgiving weekend, Cyber Monday is expected to be the winner, with online spending forecast to grow 17.6 percent to $7.8 billion, according to software company Adobe Analytics. But Black Friday is projected to not be far behind, with a projected uptick in online sales of 17.2 percent to $5.9 billion.

During the full holiday season, more than $1 out of every $6 that is spent will be doled out online, amounting to $124.1 billion, according to Adobe. That’s a 14.8 percent jump over the previous year, and significantly more than the 2.7 percent spending uptick expected offline.

Digital research firm eMarketer has similar figures, saying that e-commerce spending will rise 16.6% to $123.73 billion, making up 12.3% of total holiday retail sales — the largest chunk ever.

For gift ideas and dates on deals, check out gifts.usatoday.com