Metro-East News

Shoppers hit the stores in search of Black Friday deals

Stores opened their doors Friday for what is still one of the busiest days of the year, even as the start of the holiday season edges ever earlier.

Follow our up-to-the minute coverage of Black Friday shopping in the metro-east and elsewhere:

11:10 a.m.: Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Target Corp. and other brick-and-mortar chains are counting on heavier discounts and a bigger online selection to help keep up with Inc. this holiday season, Bloomberg News reported Friday.

As Black Friday ushers in the year-end shopping rush, chains are touting larger price cuts than in 2015 — a gamble that maintaining market share is worth squeezing margins. Based on a Market Track study of holiday circulars, Wal-Mart is offering an average discount of 39 percent, compared with 35 percent last year. At Target, the price cuts grew to 38 percent from 36 percent.

10:40 a.m.: Brian Motzko was making his usual trip to the Mall of America in Minnesota early Friday while visiting relatives for Thanksgiving.

The Cedar Falls, Iowa resident told the Associated Press he’s doing all his Christmas shopping on Black Friday, buying gifts for himself, his wife and family “until my card blows up.” He says, “I’ve got two teenage girls. It’s whatever.”

Motzko says he scored 70 percent off cookware at Williams-Sonoma and was on the hunt for a Bluetooth speaker. He said the nation’s largest shopping center seemed less packed than in years past.

10 a.m.: Macy’s CEO Terry Lundgren tells The Associated Press that store traffic has been encouraging. He says shopper numbers have been strong at its flagship store Friday morning.

Lundgren said clothing sales have been good, with sportswear, dresses and even social occasion fashions doing well. But he’s hoping for some cold weather to help fuel more sales of winter items.

Lundgren believes that the rising stock market will help shoppers’ mood. Jeff Gennette, president of Macy’s who will become CEO early next year, believes there was pent-up demand after the contentious presidential election was over. He says consumers can now focus on other things.

9:20 a.m.: Protesters who obstructed Black Friday shoppers on Chicago’s famed Michigan Avenue last year are planning to do it again this year.

The groups participating in the protest Friday want to call attention to what they say is the city’s inaction to the fatal police shooting of black teenager Laquan McDonald, and their demands for a civilian police oversight panel. Thursday was the one-year anniversary of the release of a video showing the McDonald shooting

7:30 a.m.: Stephanie Sullivan says she’s searching for deals this holiday season on items for her son’s upcoming wedding. She said she planned to hit the Columbia Mall in Missouri on Friday after some shopping the night before.

Sullivan, her two adult sons and future daughter-in-law had driven from Kirksville, Missouri to Columbia for the shopping on Thanksgiving. She and her entourage toted luggage and bulging bags as they headed to their truck, driven by one of her sons, waiting in front of Kohl’s.

The 49-year-old said she saved $580 and spent a little under $200 on a four-piece luggage set, sweaters, pillows, boots and other things. She said she was buying for herself, but did purchase one sweater as a gift.

Sullivan said the family was trying to stay busy after the death of her husband in October “and not focus on what we lost.”

7:15 a.m.: Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which started its Black Friday sales in stores on Thursday at 6 p.m., says shoppers were embracing different types of tech products.

Steve Bratspies, who is chief merchandising officer at Wal-Mart’s U.S. division, says in addition to picking up Black Friday favorites like televisions and toys, shoppers were looking for drones, virtual reality products and hoverboards.

The company started its online sale at 12:01 a.m. Thursday and noted that more than 70 percent of traffic to during the Thursday event came from mobile devices.

6:55 a.m.: Traffic is clear coming off Interstate 64 and Illinois 159 to St. Clair Square. There’s plenty of parking, too.

6:50 a.m.: This weekend is crucial to set the tone for the holiday season. Around 137 million people plan to or are considering doing their shopping during the Thanksgiving weekend, according to a survey conducted for the National Retail Federation. That includes online and store shopping. Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, vies with the Saturday before Christmas as the busiest shopping day of the year.

The NRF, the nation's largest retail group, expects holiday sales to rise 3.6 percent for November and December, better than the 3 percent growth seen for those months last year. That excludes car sales, gas and restaurant receipts. But it includes online spending and other non-store sales such as catalog spending.

6:45 a.m.: Police are investigating a shooting in a parking lot of a mall in southern New Jersey.

Authorities didn't immediately confirm how many people were injured after a shooting early Friday in the parking lot outside of a Macy’s at the Hamilton Mall in Hamilton Township.

More than 15 evidence markers were laid down in the parking lot.

The mall opened at 6 a.m. for Black Friday shoppers.

6:30 a.m.: Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White’s office plans to conduct stings today to catch motorists who misuse disability placards and license plates. His office said St. Clair Square is one of the targeted locations in the sting.

Drivers caught misusing a placard face a six-month driver’s license suspension and $600 fine. Repeat violators will face a one-year driver’s license suspension and $750 fine for a second offense, and for third or subsequent offenses a $1,000 fine plus a one-year driver’s license revocation. The fine for parking in disability parking spaces can be as much $350.