BLACK FRIDAY LIVE: Thinner crowds, protests, beer

NEW YORK (AP) — Black Friday shoppers are starting to look like procrastinators.

The traditional kickoff to the holiday shopping season didn’t seem as frenzied as in past years after many die-hard shoppers swarmed stores the night before on Thanksgiving.

Still, millions of Americans headed out in search of deals. Sales estimates for Black Friday should start trickling in over the weekend. For the full holiday season, the National Retail Federation forecasts an increase of 4.1 percent — the biggest jump since 2011.

To meet expectations, stores may have to keep slashing prices in the weeks ahead.

Here’s a look at what happened this Black Friday:

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STILL NO. 1?

Since 2005, Black Friday has held the crown for the top sales day of the year, according to ShopperTrak, which tracks data at 70,000 stores globally.

That could change this year. The earlier openings on Thanksgiving are eating into Black Friday sales. As a result, the last Saturday before Christmas may edge out Black Friday.

Bill Martin, co-founder of ShopperTrak, said it should be close to a tie.

At Macy’s, CEO Terry Lundgren says he thinks Black Friday will still be the company’s biggest sales day of the year.

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FERGUSON PROTESTERS

About 200 people demonstrated in a plaza near Chicago’s historic water tower, calling for a boycott on shopping to show solidarity with ongoing protests around Ferguson, Missouri.

Protesters also entered a Target and multiple Wal-Mart stores in the St. Louis area, according to Johnetta Elzie, who tweeted and posted videos of the demonstrations.

After being moved out of one Wal-Mart by police, they chanted, “no justice, no peace, no racist police” and “no more Black Friday.”

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BEST BUY SITE OUTAGE

Best Buy’s website was back up and running at around 11:30 a.m. eastern on Friday after going down for more than an hour with a message that read, “WE’RE SORRY.”

Jeff Shelman, a company spokesman, attributed the glitch to “a concentrated spike in mobile traffic.” He said the company shut down BestBuy.com so it could restore it to full performance.

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PRISON CRAFTS ON SALE

Black Friday arrived at a prison craft store in Maine, too. The store in Thomaston opened early and cut prices by 40 percent. The Maine Prison Industries outlet store in Windham had a similar sale.

The bookshelves, toys and models of the USS Constitution warship were made as part of an inmate work program.

Maine Prison Industries manager Ken Lindsey said prisoners are paid $1 to $3 per hour, which first goes toward court restitution and child support payments. The program also teaches inmates job skills and people skills they can use upon release.

Maine prisoners have made handicrafts for sale since the early 1800s, Lindsey said.

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MARATHON SHOPPER

At Westfield Fox Valley mall in Aurora, Illinois, parking spaces were plentiful and lines in many stores short or non-existent Friday morning. Some groggy shoppers were in their pajama pants.

Kimberly States said it was noticeably quieter than the night before, when she made her first trip to the mall.

“It was a zoo last night around 10 p.m.,” she said. “Now it seems like more of the old folks.”

States and her daughter were shopping mostly for clothes. She planned to return later Friday with her son.

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TOO LATE

Bridget McNabb, 55, was at a Target store in Mission, Kansas at around 5:30 a.m. Friday. She was disappointed when a worker told her the $119 TV she wanted sold out shortly after the store opened the evening before.

In Phoenix, Arizona, Kathy Wise and her mother-in-law combed through a shelf of Monster High dolls, but couldn’t find the one Wise’s daughter wanted.

“It’s kind of a bummer,” said Wise. They said it seemed like some items they were looking for were already gone.

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BUYER’S REMORSE?

When stores first started opening on Thanksgiving a few years ago, the move was met with resistance by those who thought the holiday should remain sacred.

Some expressed a tinge of guilt even as they snagged deals on the holiday.

“It’s ruining the spirit of Thanksgiving,” said Cathyliz Lopez, 20, who spent $700 at Target on Thanksgiving. But, she noted the best deals were on that day.

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U.K. GETS BLACK FRIDAY LESSON

Black Friday is becoming a tradition in the United Kingdom, too, and businesses there are finding it can lead to chaos.

Police were called to help maintain security at some supermarkets and shopping outlets that offered deep discounts starting at midnight.

Greater Manchester Police said there were two arrests and some stores were closed early.

Online retailer Amazon is believed to have introduced the concept of Black Friday to the U.K. four years ago, with more businesses joining every year since.

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WAL-MART WORKERS GET PROTESTS, TOO

About 100 protesters outside a Wal-Mart in Chicago called on the company to pay its workers $15 an hour and provide more full-time positions.

“Wal-Mart, Wal-Mart, you’re no good! Treat your workers like you should!” they chanted.

It’s the latest round of protests to hit Wal-Mart, with labor organizers saying demonstrations were planned for 1,600 locations Friday.

Brooke Buchanan, a Wal-Mart spokeswoman, said Friday the company is not aware of anyone walking off the job. She said “a handful” of people worked their shifts before joining demonstrations.

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OF BEER AND BUD

Some people wait in the cold for cheap TVs. In Wisconsin, they do it for beer.

People arrived at Lakefront Brewery in Milwaukee early Friday to get a shot at the limited-edition Imperial Stout Aged in Bourbon Barrels. A few stood outside overnight.

Brewery spokesman Matt Krajnak estimated around 800 people were in line by the time doors opened, when it was snowing and about 15 degrees.

In Colorado, the new retail marijuana industry joined the holiday rush too. The Grass Station in Denver offered deals on what some are calling “Green Friday”. The most popular was an ounce of marijuana for $50, about $200 less than the normal price.

Jarret Morgan picked up the last available ounce at the special price. He says it was the best deal he saw this year.

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Anne D’Innocenzio and Mae Anderson in New York; Sara Burnett in Chicago; Tali Arbel in Phoenix, Arizona; Dan Sewell in West Chester, Ohio; Heather Hollingsworth in Kansas City, Kansas, Carrie Antlfinger in Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Robert Jablon in Los Angeles and Patrick Whittle in Thomaston, Maine, contributed to this report.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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