BLACK FRIDAY LIVE: Thinner crowds, protests, beer

By By The Associated Press | Small Business

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. In Colorado, the new retail marijuana industry joined in the discounting, as did a brewery in Milwaukee.

The day wasn't all about deals, though. In some regions, shoppers ran into protesters who turned out after a grand jury's decision not to indict a white police officer who fatally shot Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager. Elsewhere, protesters once again called on Wal-Mart to pay its workers $15 an hour.

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

Demonstrators temporarily shut down two large malls in suburban St. Louis as organized rallies nationwide protested a grand jury's recent decision not to indict the police officer who fatally shot Michael Brown in nearby Ferguson.

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."

Elsewhere, about 200 people demonstrated near Chicago's popular Magnificent Mile shopping district, calling for a boycott on shopping to show solidarity with the ongoing Ferguson protests.

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BEST BUY SITE OUTAGE

Best Buy's website was down for about an hour in the evening after a morning outage that lasted more than an hour.

Jeff Shelman, a company spokesman, attributed the morning glitch to "a concentrated spike in mobile traffic." He said the company had shut down BestBuy.com again because of "traffic-related issues."

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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.

They said that it seemed as if some of the best deals and items were already gone. "It's kind of a bummer," said Wise.

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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.

In Sacramento, California, a protester dressed as Santa Claus was arrested outside of a Wal-Mart, organizers said.

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.

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