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'Gray Thursday' Makes For Smoother Black Friday Shopping

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) - Stores are welcoming a second wave of shoppers in what has become a two-day kickoff to the holiday shopping season.

Thousands of people woke up early Friday morning in the Twin Cities to get their hands on all of those Black Friday deals.

But with more consumers buying online or heading to stores right after turkey, Friday morning shoppers found sparse parking lots and speedy checkout lanes at big box stores like Target and Wal-Mart.

The National Retail Federation predicts holiday sales will hit the $616 billion mark this year.

On Friday, many people are spending their money at Mall of America, which has been open since Thanksgiving Day.

Megan, Miranda and Madie said that together they can handle any crowd--as long as the sales are waiting.

"We don't even go to sleep," Miranda said. "We came out at ten, and so we haven't even been to bed yet."

By the end of the morning, many shoppers had also already exhausted their energy reserves. Some sat, others laid down--drained from all the deals.

"They burn off the turkey, they shop a lot and then they have to rest up," Sarah Schmidt, a Mall of America spokesperson, said of the consumer hordes. "Starbucks is open, Caribous are open here, so they can refuel, get their energy up and they'll be back at it here shortly."

The Mall of America spokeswoman said more than 170,000 people have visited the mall since the doors opened Thursday at 5 p.m.
That number will continue to increase throughout the day.

Sales booming online

A lot of shoppers never left their couches to find a good deal.

Target said online sales were up more than 40 percent from last year.

Wal-Mart reported more than 22 million customers came through the doors between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. Thursday.

Online, the most popular items were prepaid phones and baby items.

But one store may see a drop in online sales: Best Buy.

The website posted a "We're sorry, check back soon" message around 9 a.m. Friday, but it's back online now.

Best Buy said a spike in mobile traffic triggered issues that forced them to shutdown the website for a short time.

They say it was necessary to restore full performance for shoppers.

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