US stores have opened early and offered steep discounts to encourage consumers to part with their cash as the Christmas shopping season kicks off.
Crowds of shoppers turned up at dawn to snare the best deals.
A worker died and at least three people were injured after being trampled by a crowd of shoppers at a Wal-Mart in the New York suburbs.
The day after the Thanksgiving holiday is viewed as an important test of how willing consumers are to spend.
Police said a throng of shoppers broke down the doors to the Wal-Mart store in Valley Stream, Long Island shortly after 0500, knocking the 34-year-old worker to the ground.
Electronics retailer Best Buy and department stores Kohl’s and Macy’s also opened their doors at dawn.
Toys R Us offered up to 60% discounts from 0500 to 1000.
Several major retailers indicated that crowds were at least as large as last year’s, but deep discounts are likely to hurt retailers’ profit margins.
“The traffic is up compared to last year, but the bag count is down,” said Marshal Cohen, chief retail analyst at NPD Group.
“There may be more casual shoppers, but they’re not buying as much as last year.”
Some shoppers queued up to bag the best bargains.
“The recession is kicking in,” Tammy Williams, 36, told the Reuters news agency as she waited for a Kohl’s store in New Jersey to open at 0400.
“I’m just looking for a bargain, anything to save a couple of dollars. I’ll save the rest for food shopping.”
“Shopping was never fun at all, and it’s less fun now,” said Manhattan resident Marjorie Daube, 59.
A spokeswoman for Taubman, which operates 24 malls in 13 states, said small domestic items – such as pots, pans and coffee makers – sold well on Friday.
Many retailers have suffered as the US economy nosedives although value chains like Wal-Mart have fared better.
US retail sales recorded the biggest monthly decline since 1992 in October as consumers cut back on spending.