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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Black Friday crowds smaller than expected

Friday morning turned out to be just right for Spokane shoppers who don’t like crowds.

The biggest crowds lined up for discount deals at major retailers when they opened late on Thanksgiving.

Shannon Little and her daughter Taylor Little went straight to the Fred Meyer store on Thor Street for winter boots.

“They were marked down to a third of the price,” Shannon Little said. She saw the deal in Fred Meyer’s flier. “We go every year. We started yesterday around 4 and hit Shopko, Walmart, Target and the Valley Mall.”

Both said they felt like they got better deals and had been able to save up more money for shopping, compared to last year.

“Black Friday does start earlier and earlier,” Taylor Little said. “I didn’t sleep much overnight.”

Some stores had general markdowns like “all clothing 30 percent off” and that’s what lured Sarah Catherine Davis from Cheney to the Target store on the South Hill.

“You have to go to see what’s really marked down,” Davis said.

She wasn’t looking for anything specific but was hoping to find good deals on new clothes.

Black Friday, historically the starting line of the retail industry’s crucial holiday buying season, isn’t quite the one-day spree it used to be.

Some retailers have pushed their biggest Black Friday door-buster deals into Thanksgiving Day and spread other promotions to even earlier in the season. Many of the deals are also available online.

Of the 65 percent of U.S. consumers who plan to shop on Black Friday, 53 percent will buy online, with the rest spending at brick-and-mortar stores, according to an Accenture survey cited by the Associated Press.

Many will combine the two, checking prices on a smartphone while browsing store aisles or researching items online before heading to a store to make the purchase.

In downtown Spokane, shoppers stopped by the Apple Store anticipating deals the computer giant had teased. It turned out Apple was giving a variety of in-store credit vouchers depending on what shoppers purchased.

Other downtown retailers like The North Face, Urban Outfitters and Carhartt had Friday specials and discounts.

Dan Gutman shopped the modern way at Shopko. He’d ordered a few things online for pickup at the store and other items to be shipped to his home.

“Prices are the same online as in the store, it’s convenient,” Gutman said. He said he was surprised by how few shoppers he encountered early Friday.

Online shoppers spent $1.93 billion on Thanksgiving Day. That’s up 11.5 percent from last year, but short of the $2 billion forecast by Adobe Digital Insights.

On Friday, online sales were expected to hit about $3 billion.

Gutman said the ease of online might be why the foot traffic was down.

He was at The General Store when it opened, expecting a huge crowd.

“There was maybe 20 of us standing around when they opened and we just sort of walked in,” Gutman said. “I have not seen that many people out anywhere.”

Debbie Hamilton, of Spokane, was also at Shopko on the South Hill with a cart piled high with bedding, toys, books and Christmas ornaments.

She looked for marked-down toys and was waiting for her daughter to return with a few more things.

“I have a set rule,” Hamilton said, laughing. “When the cart is full it’s time to leave – so it’s time to leave.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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