What to Know
Thousands of people woke up early across the tri-state Friday to take advantage of Black Friday deals
Brick-and-mortar stores are looking to woo shoppers with in-person experiences, like Santa villages, as online shopping soars in popularity
For the first time ever, online holiday purchases are expected to surpass that of in-store purchases this year
Shoppers have braved the pre-dawn chill to hit stores across the tri-state on Black Friday for big bargains and deep discounts.
Traffic was backed up and parking lots were full at the Tanger Outlets in Riverhead Thursday night as people hunted for deals. Crowds lined up outside of businesses and crowded entrances despite the cold.
Some 115 million people are expected to shop from Black Friday to CyberMonday, and for the first time ever, online holiday shopping is prediced to beat in-store sales in 2017.
With the landscape of holiday shopping gravitating to the online market in recent years, many brick-and-mortar stores like Sears, Macy's and JCPenney have been forced to adopt. Some are offering their own online deals over days and weeks, others are rethinking their approach.
Venessa Mitton, the marketing director of Westfield South Shore in Bay Shore, said the shopping center is combating online shopping by attracting customers with experiences, like a Santa set for families.
"We now offer a lot of different things that customers can get in the physical space rather than clicking on a website," Mitton said. "Ways to capture those family memories and traditions, and just give people an experience that they cannot get online."
It appeared to be working. Dominic Charland, the general manager of JCPenney at Westfield South Shore, said Thanksgiving night was a success for the location.
"The crowd was awesome, the crowd was huge. The line was around the building," Charland said, adding that there were only six televisions left at the store. Gaming consoles, clothing and jewelry were other hot items.
Charland also said the physical experience of shopping at a store offers something online retailers can't match.
"Our bread and butter is apparel and people love to come in, they love to touch, to feel, to try on — you can't get that online," he said.
Shopping with friends on the day after Thanksgiving is also a tradition for many people. Breanna Murphy and Sam Burke pulled an all-nighter, driving from mall to mall to get the best Black Friday deals.
"I went to Tanger (Outlets), then I came back here. I went back to Tanger because the lines were long, then I'm here again," Murphy said.
Still, the crowds were smaller than some people expected.
Vanessa Mendolia says she's never shopped on Black Friday before but was enticed after seeing smaller crowds on the news.
"I was watching on TV this morning, sitting there with my coffee, and it was completely empty. So I made my husband get up. I said, 'Let's go, we're going to the mall.'"