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Black Friday crowds smaller, calmer in stores across the country

By Nathan Salant     Nov 28, 2015 in Business
New York - Smaller crowds and fewer unruly bargain-hunters made the start of the holiday shopping season seem almost civilized, reports from around the country appear to indicate.
Stores and malls across the country reported fewer shoppers than last year, particularly in states where current events distracted from the season's usual emphasis on consumerism.
Analysts also attributed calmer Black Friday shopping to the growth of online shopping, which is expected to garner as much as half of the day's receipts, according to the Associated Press.
Protests that erupted in downtown Chicago over the release of a video of a police officer shooting a black teen blocked easy access to the city's high-end shopping district, the AP said, and legal marijuana shops in Colorado offered discounted prices as the Christmas shopping season got under way.
Community leaders had pressed for over a year for release of the video, which shows 17-year-old Laquan McDonald being shot numerous times by officer Jason Van Dyke, who was charged with murder.
Even President Barack Obama said he was "deeply disturbed" by the footage.
Protesters blocked entrances at many iconic Chicago department stores, including Neiman Marcus, the Disney Store, NIke, Tiffany & Co. and the Apple Store, as workers directed shoppers to side doors.
But even the protesters were calmer than usual, with many stopping to take pictures of Black Friday shoppers who took photos of them..
Well-known Chicago civil rights activist Rev. Jesse Jackson, a candidate for the Democratic Party presidential nomination in 1984 and 1988, led a prayer group on the steps of the city's Water Tower.
But business was far from booming in places free of civil unrest, such as Kansas City, Denver and Pleasanton, Calif.
Lines to check out were no more than a few customers deep at Macy's in Kansas City, the AP said, and no lines at all at a Kmart in Denver.
"There's no one here, no challenge," exclaimed Susan Montoya in Denver as she hunted, dress-by-dress, through a rack of holiday party clothing.
Lynette Norcup of Pleasanton waited in the Walmart parking lot for the store to open on Black Friday but said the usual Black Friday thrill had gone when stores began to open on Thanksgiving.
Marijuana stores in Colorado reported that discounted weed and holiday gifts were drawing shoppers despite freezing temperatures and snowfalls.
"We get a lot of people in the first few hours, just like any store on Black Friday," Kush Club co-owner Joaquin Ortega of Denver told the AP,
The Kush Club played reggae music and offered free joints and cigarette rolling papers, and offered medical marijuana at a substantial discount — $99 per ounce.
Competition from online sellers continued to cut into store sales, as online buying rose at Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Target Inc.
Wal-Mart's Steve Bratspies told the AP that more people were visiting its stores and its website than did last year, and Target CEO Brian Cornell said Black Friday 2015 would be the company's biggest online sales day ever.
J.C. Penney CEO Marvin Ellison said his company had worked hard to improve its Internet app and online sales were higher as a result.
"We saw customers going back and forth, researching online and then go to the stores," Ellison said.
And it isn't even Cyber Monday yet!
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