HUNTINGTON — For decades now, sisters Patricia Calhoun and Tracie McDaniel have ventured out on Black Friday.

“It’s not really about the deals; it’s the excitement,” McDaniel said.

When they first started, it was for toys for their kids. But now that the kids are adults, Calhoun and McDaniel are joined by their daughters, Kaitlyn Ritchie and Nikki McDaniel.

On Friday, the foursome traveled about two hours from their homes in Kentucky to shop in and around the Huntington Mall this year. They started at stores around the mall before making it to the mall around noon. They planned to end the day at Walmart — another tradition.

Ritchie said they probably wouldn’t make it home until 3 a.m., which was about when they got home last year. They said they chose the Huntington Mall over others, like Lexington, because it’s less crowded and has less traffic.

“We are crazy,” Nikki McDaniel said.

“We have a lot of laughs,” her mom, Tracie McDaniel, said.

Representatives for the Huntington Mall said overall Black Friday was a success.

The mall opened at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day and gave away 500 swag bags. Margi MacDuff, marketing manager, said 600 people were in line. By 8 p.m. she said it was shoulder to shoulder.

Stores like Victoria’s Secret and Bath & Body Works had a one-out, one-in policy as the shops met fire code capacity, MacDuff said.

When the mall reopened Friday, MacDuff said it started off slowly but the mall’s candy bar giveaway (with prizes) got things started and by noon the mall parking lot was once again full.

The shopping season is the shortest since 2013 because Thanksgiving fell on the last Thursday in November — the latest possible date it could be.

Adobe Analytics predicts a loss of $1 billion in online revenue from a shortened season. Still, it expects online sales will reach $143.7 billion, up 14.1% from last year’s holiday season.

The National Retail Federation, the nation’s largest retail trade group, baked the shorter season into its forecast, but it says the real drivers will be the job market. It forecasts that holiday sales will rise between 3.8% and 4.2%, an increase from the disappointing 2.1% growth in the November and December 2018 period that came well short of the group’s prediction.

Last year’s holiday sales were hurt by turmoil over the White House trade policy with China and a delay of nearly a month in data collection because of a government shutdown. This year’s holiday forecast is above the average holiday sales growth of 3.7% over the previous five years.

NRF expects online and other non-store sales, which are included in the total, to increase between 11% and 14% for the holiday period.

Adobe Analytics said Thanksgiving Day hit new records for online shopping. Consumers spent $4.2 billion on Thanksgiving, a 14.5% increase from the holiday a year ago. Black Friday was on track to hit $7.4 billion.

With discounts coming earlier this year, Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst at market research firm NPD Group Inc., believes the biggest sales day of the year will be a toss-up between Black Friday and the last Saturday before Christmas.

As online sales surge, some retailers including Costco.com and H&M grappled with brief outages, according to technology company Catchpoint.

Target reported Friday that 1 million more customers used its app to shop Black Friday deals compared with last year. The discounter said customers bought big-ticket items like TVs, Apple iPads and Apple Watches.

Walmart had similar reports of higher app usage. The most popular deals included TVs from brands like Samsung and Philips, Ryan’s World and Frozen toys, and Apple AirPods.

More than half of consumers started their holiday shopping early this year, and nearly a quarter of purchases have already been made, according to the annual survey released by the NRF and Prosper Insights & Analytics.

Besides the rise of online shopping, deals starting before Halloween were part of the reason for thinner crowds, said Charles O’Shea, a retail analyst at Moody’s.

MacDuff said this year was different from other years.

“This is my 17th Christmas,” she said. “The first few years were insane. Spreading the shopping out has really helped.”

She said the one single day of sales is what brought on fights. This year was all positive, she said.

MacDuff said the mall also had more stores closed on Thanksgiving Day proper, a decision she wholeheartedly agrees with, she said. In the end, MacDuff said she thinks it will bring more people to the mall as they come back to shop the stores that weren’t open when the Black Friday frenzy began.

The Huntington Mall will have volunteer gift wrappers stationed at the mall every day this season. MacDuff said it was the first year every day is staffed for wrapping.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Follow reporter Taylor Stuck on Twitter and Facebook @TaylorStuckHD.

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