DURHAM — For veteran shoppers such as Annie Thacker, Black Friday has lost much of its mojo.
With more and more retailers pushing their opening times into Thanksgiving night, Thacker arrived at the The Streets at Southpoint mall early Friday morning with her usual 9-point Black Friday Game Plan. (No. 5: Wear comfortable clothes We are NOT picking up dates ... we are on a MISSION!!)
But what she found was a general lack of buzz among shoppers.
There wasnt enough incentive, Thacker, 49, said as she strolled through the mall with her teenage daughter. Its 50 percent off starting Thursday, and now its still 50 percent. That chips away the excitement.
The remnants of a Thanksgiving night shopping frenzy could be found at the Macys store, where tags, sweaters and even empty soda cans were scattered about the floor. For the first time, the department store opened its doors at 8 p.m. Thursday, offering more than 375 door buster deals to lure people in after their turkey meals.
Although moving up Black Friday has drawn criticism from some who take offense to its encroachment on a family holiday, retailers reported no backlash.
Zakia Zaman, a sales associate at the Calvin Klein counter, started work at 5 a.m. after the big crush of shoppers had already passed through.
Lots of people poured in the shop when we opened Thursday, but this years Black Friday is much calmer, she said.
Bed, Bath & Beyond adopted time-sensitive sales to promote different lines of products, and was one of the most crowded stores at the mall late Thursday night and early Friday.
There was a big rush of people who came after their turkey meals, said Precious Bass, a temporary sales leader for the store.
Strong Black Friday sales are particularly important for retailers this year because the late start of Thanksgiving means there will be six fewer shopping days from now until Christmas.
There are already hints that lingering concerns about the strength of the economic recovery could keep shoppers from splurging.
Sales over Black Friday weekend are projected to be $36.7 billion, just a 1.7 percent increase from last year, according to market research company IBISWorld. Sales rose nearly 10 percent last year over 2011.
One-third of North Carolinians say they plan to spend less money on gifts this holiday season than in previous years, with just 20 percent planning to spend more, according to a Elon University Poll. Nearly half of all state residents surveyed said they will spend about the same.
This could have an important impact on the profits of many retailers, since about 20 percent of annual retail sales occur during the holiday season, said assistant professor Kenneth Fernandez, director of the Elon University Poll.
Donnie Weaver, who accompanied his daughter and grandson Friday morning to shop at Southpoint, said there is one bright spot to the earlier holiday deals.
It cuts down on the crowd, and its just safer, said Weaver, 57, as he rested on a bench, looking after the merchandise that they bought.