Thousands of bargain hunters are flocking to shopping centres across the Hunter Region today to take advantage of the Black Friday sales.
If Charlestown Square at noon was any indication, dollars were definitely being spent. Cars queued on the ramps going in to and out of the car park and shoppers were juggling multiple bags on each arm.
There was even a marching band, Hot Potato, making its way through the Square.
Charlestown Square's Black Friday sale is its biggest yet, the Newcastle Herald was told, with more than 60 retailers participating and some of them offering savings of up to 75 per cent off. Also, shoppers have the opportunity to win more than $15,000 in prizes if they spend $100 or more in-centre (excluding supermarkets) between 10am and 3pm, Friday and Saturday.
"Fashion, footwear and beauty are really strong categories for us for on Black Friday but we're seeing some really strong increases as well across homewares, bedding and tech," centre manager Kate Murphy said.
"Lots of families are getting for Christmas too, with Christmas merch proving really popular as well.
"We've been talking to our retailers and we've seen some strong results so far, and we'll be collecting more data in the coming days. We're seeing lots of savvy shoppers, concerned about the increase in the cost of just about everything, using the sales as an opportunity to get ahead on their Christmas shopping."
Like Halloween, Black Friday is a US construct, and it takes place the Friday after Thanksgiving.
There has been talk that the Black Friday weekend spend in Australia might top the Boxing Day spend this year. Time will tell, but this week the Australian Retailers Association (ARA) anticipated the Black Friday weekend "would make up more than a quarter of holiday purchases".
That's an anticipated $6.36 billion spend across the four-day Black Friday/Cyber Monday weekend (November 24 to 27), up 3 per cent from last year according to research by the ARA, in partnership with Roy Morgan.
ARA chief executive officer Paul Zahra said despite an expected subdued broader pre-Christmas spending period, the growing popularity of Black Friday will give retailers a much-needed boost to the holiday shopping season.
"The Black Friday sales are the perfect opportunity for shoppers to get a great deal at a time when every dollar counts," he said.
"As the country continues to be gripped by a cost-of-living crisis, the importance of Black Friday and Cyber Monday will be more significant than ever before.
"Despite a lukewarm spending projection for the pre-Christmas period, Black Friday this year is set to be record-breaking as consumers seek out bargains amid intense financial pressure."
He said some retailers had started their Black Friday sales early in a move to entice Christmas shoppers: "We expect by the end of November more than half of the gift shopping in Australia would have been completed."
Findings from Salesforce, released by the ARA, found online shopping traffic is up 5 per cent year-on-year but hasn't driven a significant change in sales, which they say "suggests consumers are doing their research, making their own price comparisons and shopping thoughtfully and cautiously".
Nearby though, Westfield Kotara seemed to be a slightly quieter scene.
Shoppers the Herald spoke to said they planned to do a lot of their spending online, but had decided to come in-store to snag last-minute details.
"I usually shop online, but I am on my way home so thought I'd drop in," a 27-year-olf school teacher said. "I got a lot of text messages about Black Friday deals."
"We are shopping for Christmas," a couple in their 60s said. "[We are] trying to get the grandkids' presents sorted early."
A retail worker on Level 2, the centre's busiest floor, said service had been "constant but not too bad".
The Herald has reached out to Westfield Kotara for comment and official numbers on Black Friday sales.