Click here for a holiday treat, every day from PIX11

Shoppers flock to stores on Black Friday, but Amazon is still the top destination

NEW YORK — Stores are hoping deals and excitement bring shoppers to stores and to their sites for Black Friday, one of the biggest shopping days of the year.

But Black Friday has morphed from a single day when people got up early to score doorbusters into a whole season of deals, so shoppers may feel less need to be out. Some love the excitement. Others may just check their phones and go back to sleep. But the Thanksgiving weekend, when stores go all-out to attract shoppers, can be an indication of how well they'll do through the season.

Some stores saw long lines and crowds as they opened Thursday, and. Lam Huynh, who was at Macy's during a visit to New York from Grand Rapids, Michigan, was making his first Thanksgiving Day shopping trip in a few years. Like many consumers, he's been spending less time at the malls and more online. For the holiday season, he plans to do what he's been doing for the past few years: Go to deal sites and find the best prices.

"I buy pretty much what I can on Amazon," he said.

With the jobless rate at a 17-year-low of 4.1 percent and consumer confidence stronger than a year ago, analysts project healthy sales increases for November and December. The National Retail Federation trade group expects sales for that period to at least match last year's rise of 3.6 percent and estimates online spending and other non-store sales will rise 11 to 15 percent.

Analysts at Bain say Amazon is expected to take half of the holiday season's sales growth. And Amazon is the top destination for people to begin holiday shopping, according to a September study by market research firm NPD Group.

Abi Gyawali, a 27-year-old biology graduate student at the University of Missouri, normally shops online on Amazon or Best Buy for Cyber Monday, where he said he finds some of the best deals. He was out at J.C. Penney in Columbia, Missouri, on Thursday and left with a discounted air fryer.

About 69 percent of Americans, or 164 million people, intend to shop at some point during the five-day period from Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday, according to a survey released by the NRF. It expects Black Friday to remain the busiest day, with about 115 million people planning to shop then.

Linda Adair, 64, was among the shoppers at the same J.C. Penney. She said she buys both online and in stores, but likes to touch and see items in person because "it's harder to tell what you're actually getting with online shopping."

Though she normally shops on Thanksgiving or the day after, she raised concerns about deals that come earlier each year.

"Honestly, I wish they'd wait until later," Adair said. "But all the stores are doing it, so if one does, then the others have to do it."