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Once again, Black Friday in Tampa Bay 'not crazy at all'

Starbucks had the longest line at Tampa Premium Outlets Thanksgiving night. So did the one in Westfield Brandon at 5 a.m. on Black Friday.

The lines to buy stuff at malls and big box stores across Tampa Bay were pretty much nonexistent on Thanksgiving and Black Friday, continuing a trend where fewer shoppers feel the need to buy right away over what has historically been the biggest shopping day of the year.

With opening hours now in the afternoon on Thanksgiving, and rounds of deals lasting through Saturday and Sunday of the long weekend and followed by Cyber Monday, this is the new normal.

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"There's just no sense of urgency any more. It's dragged out over the entire weekend," said Seiko assistant store manager Christopher Piotraczk. This was the watch store's first Black Friday at Tampa Premium Outlets, which opened at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving.

As an example of Black Friday's demise, a sign in the window of Off Saks, the Saks Fifth Avenue outlet store, said deals were available for "four days only."

Four days doesn't scream urgency like the "one-day only!" deals of Black Friday's past.

Tampa Premium Outlets and the Shops at Wiregrass had a steady flow of shoppers on Thursday and Friday, but it never felt packed or overwhelming. The lack of chaos befuddled some shoppers.

"It's definitely not the Black Friday I see on TV," said Juan Rodriguez, who was in town from Miami visiting his brother's family in Land O'Lakes. He was content to catch up with his brother on a bench at the outlet mall Thursday night while the women in their family shopped at the stores.

"It's not crazy at all," he said.

Maybe more people decided to shop online. Many retailers, including Best Buy and Toys 'R' Us, were offering some of the same in-store doorbusters online, too.

A survey by Deloitte shows that 59 percent of people who plan to shop over Thanksgiving weekend will do so online, which is up from 52 percent last year. Compare that to the 36 percent of consumers who said they'll shop in stores this year, which is down from 45 percent in 2014.

Still, there were a few lines at stores across the Tampa Bay area. Coach and Michael Kors at the brand new outlet mall in Wesley Chapel drew several dozen each. Nike had a short line that snaked around its entrance. Tilly's, a surf and skate apparel store, was giving away gift cards to the first 100 people in line. They weren't able to attract 100 people by the time the store opened.

Just before 8 a.m. Friday, a line at Best Buy in Brandon wrapped around the building.

The store opened on Thanksgiving, but hundreds showed up Friday morning for round two. Inside, they eyed TVs and stereos, video game consoles and computers.

But others looked for deals they figured others might not.

Topher Ellis, for one, said that while he was thinking about getting a PlayStation, his real plan was to snatch up flash drives. A 128 GB model was inside for $20.

"Come next year, I could be a scalper if I wanted to and just sell them for $100," said Ellis, 26, of Tampa.

The die hard Black Friday shoppers still made the rounds in Tampa Bay.

As the clock inched toward 6:30 a.m., Tina Moore, Jean Maton and Gale Cochran were taking a break. They were coming up on 12 hours of shopping, and they planned to keep at it into the afternoon.

Their matching T-shirts had a message: "Move it or lose it," they demanded in pink glitter.

The Westfield Brandon mall was the latest in a list of stops in their Black Friday shopping all-nighter: Target, Walmart, Kohl's, Toys 'R' Us and Target again.

Their kids came with a plan, but they came in as backup, just like they always have the past five years or so.

"They just use us," said Moore, 57, of Fort Lonesome, with a laugh. "The things you do for your children."

The National Retail Federation predicts that retail sales in November and December will grow by 3.7 percent, or to $630.5 billion nationally, this year. In the Sunshine State, the Florida Retail Federation predicts a 4.5 percent increase in sales.

But Black Friday? It's certainly a shadow of its former self.

Times Staff Writer Josh Solomon contributed to this report. Contact Justine Griffin at jgriffin@tampabay.com. Follow @SunBizGriffin.

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