Shoppers seek deals, buy less on Black Friday

Fri Nov 28, 2008 6:57pm EST
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By Alexandria Sage and Aarthi Sivaraman

SAN FRANCISCO/NEW YORK (Reuters) - Shoppers lured by money-saving deals filled U.S. stores on Friday, but the annual kick-off to holiday shopping appeared weaker this year as worries about a deep recession kept purchases down.

The day after the U.S. Thanksgiving Day marks the traditional start of the holiday shopping season, when retailers can make up to 40 percent of their annual sales. Crowds gathered outside stores for predawn deals.

The frenzied bargain-hunting took a somber turn when a worker at Wal-Mart in Valley Stream, New York, died after shoppers broke down doors to enter the store at 5 a.m. EST (1000 GMT). Four others were hurt in what Wal-Mart called a "tragic" incident.

Shoppers at Toys "R" Us in Palm Desert, California, ran for cover when two men shot and killed each other in the store, the town's mayor said. Toys "R" Us said the dispute appeared to be personal, and no other injuries were reported.

This holiday weekend will test the strength of consumer sentiment, a main driver of the U.S. economy, as the country faces its worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.

To generate excitement during what some experts predict may be the bleakest holiday season in nearly two decades, retailers from Wal-Mart to Macy's Inc and Best Buy Co Inc opened early on "Black Friday".

Marjorie Daube, 59, of Manhattan scaled back her shopping and was only buying sale items, aware that her husband's bonus at a financial firm would decline this year.

"Shopping was never fun at all, and it's less fun now," Daube said.   Continued...

<p>Shoppers carry their purchases along Newbury Street during "Black Friday" shopping day, in the Back Bay neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts November 28, 2008. REUTERS/Brian Snyder</p>