Millions are battling for bargains across America today as Black Friday, the biggest shopping day of the year, has got off to a flying start despite bad weather, giant crowds and fights in the supermarket aisles.
The first giant scrums started at a Walmart where families battled with each other to get their hands on a pair of $5 headphones, while paramedics rushed to help a Dick’s store cashier who passed out.
With sales on Black Friday expected to soar by 3.8% this year to a staggering $11.4 billion, thousands of shoppers queued around blocks before stores opened. As many as 11,000 lined around Macy’s flagship store in New York City’s Herald Square before it threw open its doors.
In one Walmart, the fights were underway within minutes of opening – as captured on a video posted to YouTube by a father who brought his two children along to the sales.
The youngsters are filmed sitting in a shopping trolley as the person with the camera asks them if they’re “here for the craziness” adding that they are about to watch people fight over a $5 deal for a pair of headphones.
A large crowd are standing in a circle around the box of headphones waiting for the go-ahead from the Walmart staff.
The cameraman, posting on YouTube as David Quigley, struggles to keep his camera steady as the deal drops and the crowd goes wild, throwing themselves over the box.
Men, women and children are seen mercilessly elbowing each other as they shove to grab a pair.
Violence also escalated at a San Antonio mall after a shopper allegedly pulled a gun on another man who had tried to cut to the front of the line at a Sears, the San Antonio Express-News reported.
The man had rushed into the store when it opened Thursday night to get to the front of a line and started arguing with people as he tried cutting in front of them.
A man who was punched in the face during the scuffle pulled a gun and shoppers scattered. But the man had a gun permit and has not been charged with a crime.
There was also drama elsewhere. One shopper from Juneau, Alaska tweeted a picture of a woman being carried from a Dick’s store on a stretcher as crowds focused on the shelves.
“Cashier passed out at Dick’s,” Stevie Hendrix tweeted.
“Black Friday was too much… No one cared, it was kind of sad, they just wanted their stuff.”
In Woodland Mall in Kentwood, Michigan, two teenagers were arrested after a brawl broke out between 15 men outside a JC Penney at 1.30 a.m. Witnesses said pepper spray was used.
At a Walmart in Altamonte Springs, Florida, 28-year-old Samantha Chavez was arrested after being disruptive in the traffic line, and allegedly bullying the officer directing vehicles.
Once inside the store, she allegedly threw merchandise on the floor.
Witnesses, who caught the arrest on video, claimed she only made a scene after losing her sister in the store and becoming scared, CFNews13 reported.
Police also responded to reports of shooting at 1 a.m. in Westroads Mall in Omaha, Nebraska, where nine people were killed five years ago.
Authorities later learned that while a fight had broken out, witnesses had heard trash cans being knocked over, rather than gunshots. There were no arrests.
An hour later at nearby Oak View Mall, police got into a scuffle with a shoplifter who allegedly tried to spray mace at store security guards.
Another video from Black Friday shows hundreds of girls and women storming the entrance of a Victoria’s Secret Pink store at Oak Park Mall, Kansas as it opened at midnight.
And in Springfield, Massachusetts, Anthony Perry, 34, was arrested after he allegedly left his girlfriend’s two-year-old in his car so he could by a 51 inch television from Kmart.
Security notified police about the boy sleeping in the Nissan Venza, broke into the vehicle and took him to hospital for a check-up.
Police found Perry at his home in Springfield with his new television, but do not know how he got there without his car. He claimed the youngster was in the store with him and became lost but will be charged for reckless endangerment of a child.
The shopping frenzy got off to its earliest ever start as the nation’s customers put down their turkey and headed straight to the malls, with some stores opening as early as 6 a.m. on Thanksgiving.
Shops typically open in the small hours of the morning on the day after the national holiday – named Black Friday because it is traditionally when they turn a profit for the year.
But openings have crept earlier and earlier over the past few years and this year, stores such as Target and Toys R Us opened on Thanksgiving evening, while retailers from Macy’s to Best Buy opened their doors at midnight on Black Friday.
Despite the YouTube videos, many shoppers claimed the crowds were largely peaceful, avoiding the riots seen in previous years.
Many stores had an unusually heavy police presence, and there were some reports of scuffles between customers in packed-out shopping aisles.
And amid the shopping frenzy, two customers – a husband and a wife – were hit by a car in the parking lot of a Walmart on the edge of Seattle on Thursday evening, with the wife being airlifted to hospital after the accident which saw her pinned under the vehicle.
Stores from Target to Toys R Us opened their doors on Thanksgiving evening, hoping Americans will be willing to shop soon after they finish their pumpkin pie.
Target opened its doors at 9 p.m. on the holiday, three hours earlier than last year. Sears, which didn’t open on Thanksgiving last year, opened at 8 p.m. on Thursday through 10 p.m. on Black Friday.
Toys R Us opened at 8 p.m., an hour earlier than last year. And others such as Macy’s are opening at midnight on Black Friday.
When Macy’s flagship Herald Square store in New York opened its doors at midnight, about 11,000 shoppers showed up.
Overall, about 17% of shoppers plan to take advantage of Thanksgiving hours, according to a International Council of Shopping Centers-Goldman Sachs survey of 1,000 consumers.
It is estimated that sales on Black Friday will be up 3.8% on last year, to a total of $11.4 billion.
Michael Prothero, 19, and Kenny Fullenlove, 20, were even willing to miss Thanksgiving dinner altogether for deals. They started camping out on Monday night outside a Best Buy store in Toledo, Ohio, which was slated to open at midnight.