Black Friday has kicked the holiday shopping season into overdrive as hordes of consumers descend on retail outlets in pursuit of discounts.
Here's a look at the major storylines from today’s shopping frenzy:
THE BOTTOM LINE
U.K. GETS BLACK FRIDAY, SHOVING INCLUDED
Americans aren’t the only ones searching for deals on Black Friday; the shopping derby is becoming a tradition in the United Kingdom as well.
And just like in the U.S., businesses across the Atlantic are finding it can lead to chaos. Early Friday morning, police were called to help maintain security at some supermarkets and shopping outlets that offered deep discounts starting at midnight.
“This created situations where we had to deal with crushing, disorder and disputes between customers,” said Peter Fahy, police chief for greater Manchester, where police were summoned to seven Tesco supermarkets after disturbances.
Greater Manchester Police said two arrests were made and injuries reported as police closed some stores to prevent more severe problems. One woman was injured by a falling television set.
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.
FERGUSON PROTESTS AT STORES
Protesters are speaking out on Black Friday about a grand jury's decision not to indict Darren Wilson, the white officer who fatally shot Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager.
About 200 people demonstrated in a plaza near Chicago’s historic water tower, calling for a boycott on shopping to show solidarity with ongoing protests around Ferguson, Mo., where the shooting took place.
Earlier, 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.
Protesters spent a few minutes shouting inside at each store. After police moved them out of one Wal-Mart, protesters chanted, “no justice, no peace, no racist police” and “no more Black Friday.”
In the U.S., businesses are taking steps to keep crowds under control. Such efforts were stepped up after 2008, when a Wal-Mart worker died after a stampede of shoppers.
Best Buy, for instance, has a ticketing and line process that starts two hours before doorbusters to ensure an orderly entrance into its stores. The company also says stores held training sessions last weekend to prep for this weekend’s rush.
At Target, deals are spread throughout the stores and signs direct shoppers to hot items. And the company says every store has a crowd-management captain for inside and outside the store.
That doesn’t mean everyone remembers their manners.
Wendy Iscra noted it got a little competitive at Wal-Mart in a Chicago suburb where she where she was shopping Thanksgiving.
“People were shoving each other in there,” the 40-year-old said.
EARLY BIRD SPECIAL
The National Retail Federation expected 25.6 million shoppers to head to stores on Thanksgiving, which would be slightly down from last year. The numbers aren’t in yet, but there were crowds across the country.
Macy’s said more than 15,000 people were lined up outside its flagship location in New York City’s Herald Square when the doors opened at 6 p.m. Last year, the retailer said there were 15,000 people.
In the Chicago suburb of Naperville, Ill., the parking lot of a Wal-Mart store was full about a half-hour before deals started at 6 p.m., including $199 iPad minis.
TOO LATE ALREADY?
Those waking early for some Black Friday shopping may have missed the boat.
It turns out the hottest deals of the season may be on Thanksgiving, according to an analysis of sales data and store circulars by two research firms.
Others started dishing out deals even earlier. Amazon.com and Best Buy started introducing Black Friday deals last week. On Wednesday, Target also gave early access to some of the specials reserved for the holiday shopping kickoff both in stores and online.
About 100 protesters outside a Wal-Mart in downtown 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.
It’s the latest round of protests to hit Wal-Mart, with organizers saying demonstrations are planned for 1,600 locations Friday. The union-backed group Our Walmart said workers started walking off the job on Wednesday and some staged a sit-down strike at a store in Washington, D.C.
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.
Black Friday is also one of the biggest days of the year for gun sales.
That puts pressure on the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, which is run by a division of the FBI. NICS researchers have until the end of the third business day following an attempted firearm purchase to determine whether a buyer is eligible. After that, buyers have the right to get their guns even if the check wasn’t completed.
Last year, the clock ran out more than 186,000 times.
The problem is the records submitted by states, which aren’t always updated to reflect restraining orders or other reasons to deny a sale.
NICS did about 58,000 checks on a typical day last year, with the figure surging to 145,000 on Black Friday.