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Black Friday is back but it’s not what it used to be

Jill Schramm/MDN Mya Ertelt, Maddock, leaves the Scheels exit with a full cart after taking advantage of Black Friday sales at Dakota Square Mall in Minot.

NEW YORK (AP) — On this year’s Black Friday, things almost second normal.

Malls and stores report decent-sized crowds, if not the floods of people that used to fight over the latest toys and electronics — online shopping is much too common for that now, and discounts are both more subdued and spread out over the weeks leading up to Christmas, on both websites and in stores.

Out-of-stock items due to supply crunches, higher prices for gas and food, and labor shortages that make it more difficult to respond to customers are also causing frustrations for shoppers.

Christian MacDonald, the first person in a line of about 75 people waiting for a Costa Mesa, California Target store to open, came away empty-handed.

“I came here because I figured since it was Black Friday, they’d have the new Switch OLED in stock, but they didn’t,” said MacDonald, who waited an hour and a half to get in for the sought-after Nintendo video game console. “So I’m just going to go home, I guess.”

The country’s largest mall, the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota, said nearly 100,000 people had come as of early afternoon Friday, more than double last year but a bit shy of 2019 numbers.

“We had a fantastic start,” said Mall of America senior vice president Jill Renslow.

The staffing issues that have hit many retailers and restaurants, however, also affected Mall of America. It had to trim the hours it was open.

Still, Black Friday retail sales surged 29.8% through mid-afternoon, according to Mastercard SpendingPulse, which tracks all types of payments, including cash and credit cards. That was above its 20% growth forecast for the day. Steve Sadove, senior adviser for Mastercard, says the numbers speak to the “strength of the consumer.”

Overall holiday sales are expected to grow this year. The National Retail Federation predicts a sales increase of 8.5% to 10.5% for all of November and December, after 8% growth in those months in 2020.

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