Black Friday: The Super Bowl of shopping begins

- Thousands of Southern Californians are expected to head to stores and malls today to continue the tradition of searching for Black Friday bargains amid major changes in Thanksgiving weekend shopping.

"Black Friday is no longer just a one-day holiday exclusively centered on in-store shopping," said Shawn DuBravac, the chief economist and senior director of research of the Consumer Technology Association, the trade association for the consumer technology industry and formerly known as the Consumer Electronics Association.

"Black Friday now spans the entire week, with online and mobile shopping playing an important role as consumers increasingly rely on tech to complete their holiday shopping." To Matthew Shay, president and CEO of the National Retail Federation, the world's largest retail trade association, Black Friday "can no longer be
seen as the start of the holiday season, though there's no question it's still important to millions of holiday shoppers and retailers of all shapes and sizes.

"There is a real sea change happening in retail when it comes to the how, when, where and why of holiday shopping. Consumers today are looking for great prices and value-add promotions earlier than ever before and retailers have answered these demands in several different ways already this holiday season."

The changes to holiday shopping include stores offering their Black Friday discounts earlier and the continued growth of online shopping. However, despite the changes, the federation's Thanksgiving Weekend Expectations survey found more people planning to shop today, 99.77 million, than on Black Friday 2014, 95.51 million.

The survey of 7,712 customers conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics between Nov. 3-10 has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.2 percentage points. "This weekend isn't the end-all-be-all," Shay said. "It's important
to remember there will be several important weekends to keep an eye on before we wrap up the holiday season."
   The Holiday Shopping Survey conducted by the Accenture consulting firm found that consumer enthusiasm for Black Friday shopping is slightly lower than last year, with 63 percent of respondents saying they were likely to shop on Black Friday, compared to 66 percent last year, its highest level in eight years.

Both figures included online shopping, with 42 percent saying they planned to shop in stores today.

However, 40 percent of the 1,537 consumers surveyed in September and October said they planned to spend more on holiday shopping this year, versus 25 percent saying the same last year.

The survey found that the top choices on consumers' shopping lists are apparel (69 percent) and gift cards (64 percent). Gift cards topped last year's survey at 57 percent, with apparel second at 56 percent.

Mattel's Barbie doll line has regained the top spot in the National Retail Federation's Holiday Top Toy list for girls, after finishing second behind merchandise associated with the Disney animated musical "Frozen" last year. Lego construction toys again topped the boys' list.

Merchandise from "Frozen" was second on the girls' list, followed by generic dolls; the Monster High and American Girl doll franchises; Hasbro's My Little Pony line; Shopkins dolls; Lego items; and toys related to Disney princesses and "Star Wars."

"Star Wars" products were second on the boys' list; followed by cars and trucks; video games; Hot Wheels cars; Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles figures; the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 video game systems; Nerf products; and Marvel action figures.

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