Nov. 25 - Big shopping crowds were out early across the United States as consumers looked for big bargains, while remaining nervous about the economy. Carmen Roberts reports.
U.S. retail stores kicked off the holiday shopping season earlier than ever this year. Toys R Us got a jump on the traditional "Black Friday" sales by opening at 9 p.m. on Thanksgiving. Wal-Mart opened at 10 p.m. and stores including Macy's and Best Buy let in the crowds at midnight. This shopper at Toys R Us likes the idea: SOUNDBITE: PAM VANBELLE, SHOPPER, NEW YORK CITY (ENGLISH) SAYING: "If it helps the economy and helps get people into the stores, I think it's a great idea." Macy's Chief Executive, Terry Lundgren says he's encouraged by the midnight opening. SOUNDBITE: TERRY LUNDGREN, CEO, MACY'S (ENGLISH) SAYING: "Apparently it's working, because there were customers outside of this store, Macy's Herald Square like we've never seen before; record crowds almost 10,000 people before the store opened." The National Retail Federation says 10 percent more people may pour through U.S. stores this Black Friday weekend compared to a year ago. That's 152 million people. And with a tough economy and consumers worried about their jobs, shoppers are eager for bargains. SOUNDBITE: AUTUMN SCHNEIDER, SHOPPER, NEW YORK CITY (ENGLISH) SAYING: "It brings back elementary math for me. I am budgeting far more than I ever did, but still it's ok." SOUNDBITE: CARMEN ROBERTS, REUTERS REPORTER (ENGLISH) SAYING: "Retail analysts and executives predict tougher competition this year than a year ago. So, opening earlier than ever may give stores a better chance at getting a bigger piece of the action." Wendy Liebmann at WSL StrategicRetail.com studies shopping trends. SOUNDBITE: WENDY LIEBMANN, CEO, WSL STRATEGIC RETAIL (ENGLISH) SAYING: "The retailers are saying the sooner I get them into the door, the sooner I get them to spend, the safer I am because who knows what the next month will look like." Best Buy is trying to stay competitive by making sure it has deals to fit all shoppers' budgets - like big screen TVs ranging from $200 to $2,000. The company's President of the Americas, Mike Vitelli. SOUNDBITE: MIKE VITELLI, PRESIDENT OF THE AMERICAS, BEST BUY (ENGLISH) SAYING: "We are acutely aware. The economic situation is definitely a head wind, not a tail wind. And consumers are looking for value." SOUNDBITE: WENDY LIEBMANN, CEO, WSL STRATEGIC RETAIL (ENGLISH) SAYING: "The shopper's tough. You've got to do a lot to sort of roll him or her into the store this year." Retailers may have to work even harder, because shoppers are looking for every advantage possible. They're shopping more online, using mobile apps to get the best price, and often waiting until the last minute for prices to fall further. Carmen Roberts. Reuters