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UPDATE 5-U.S. shoppers browse stores, buy online as Black Friday deals beckon

UPDATE 5-U.S. shoppers browse stores, buy online as Black Friday deals beckon
From Reuters - November 24, 2017

CHICAGO/NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. stores offered deep discounts, entertainment and free gifts to draw bargain hunters on Black Friday, the traditional start of the holiday shopping season, but some shoppers said they were just eyeing goods, reserving their cash for online purchases.

A sharp rise in online sales made the overall picture more positive for traditional retailers expanding beyond brick-and-mortar, sending their shares higher. Stores had also carefully managed inventory, hoping to ward off any post-holiday liquidation that would weigh on profits.

There was little of the over-the-top frenzy that had been a hallmark of Black Friday in years past, and some stores appeared to be getting creative with gimmicks beyond heavy discounts.

But signs pointing to muted in-store sales - fewer cars in mall parking lots, shoppers leaving with no purchases - do not portend a weak holiday season as U.S. consumers are expected to spend more overall, analysts and industry executives said.

Black Friday sales were off to a strong start online, at $640million of 10 a.m. ET, according to Adobe Analytics, up 18.4 percent from a year ago. On Thanksgiving Day, U.S. shoppers spent more than $2.87 billion online.

Adobe forecast online Black Friday sales of $5 billion, which would be a record high. Online retailers will rake in an additional $6.6 billion on Cyber Monday, Adobe said. Adobe measures 80 percent of online transactions at the largest 100 U.S. web retailers.

Macys Inc and JC Penney Co ordered and managed inventory better this time, according to Burt Flickinger, managing director of Strategic Resources Group, a consultancy with seven researchers out in the field.

The turnout this morning has been relatively slow but it is still the best we have seen in three years. We expect it to pick up as the day progresses, Flickinger said, citing improving consumer confidence, a strong job market and healthy housing prices.

Our stock, our inventory was just right, said Martin Napoleon, general manager of JC Penney at North Riverside Mall in Chicago.

Some shoppers were lured by the promise of spectacle, while others felt the pull of nostalgia.

Its like a hangout, its an experience, said Jonathan Lin, 17. All my friends are back from college and we got together.

Theres something nostalgic about being at the stores this early, Jennifer Stasiak said at Chicagos popular Oakbrook Center.

Miguel Flores, 43, an overnight security guard, visited a Target in Manhattan after his shift ended.

I mostly shop online but decided to drop in because I havent been to a store in a long time, Flores said.

Macys Chief Executive Jeff Gennette told CNBC that the retailer was better off this year than last, had robust online demand and was in a good place for holiday promotions, and shares ended up 2.1 percent.

We had a good start to the fourth quarter, Gennette said. Black Friday was very strong online, as well as the traffic that came into our stores last night and that are here today.

JC Penney climbed 0.6 percent and Wal-Mart Stores Inc edged higher. Amazon closed up 2.6 percent at a record high.

NOT WHAT IT USED TO BE

THURSDAY NIGHT, CYBER MONDAY

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