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Black Friday liveblog: Online deals or brick-and-mortar sales?

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Still, it depends on what you're buying. Decide.com notes that Black Friday is a good day to pick up an Xbox 360, a PS3, or an original Wii, for instance. 

More importantly, for Black Friday isn't just about the bargains. For many shoppers, it's just fun to be part of a huge crowd. Those who hit the malls at midnight are driven in part by the same impulse that drives a million people gather in Times Square each New Year's Eve. We humans are pack animals.

Well, at least half of us are. The National Retail Federation predicts that up to 147 million Americans will shop over Thanksgiving weekend. And the half of our population that stays home this weekend will no doubt gape at these frenzied masses in incomprehension. Which is fair enough: We don't have to live alike to love alike.  

-- Eoin O'Carroll

Updated 10:37 a.m.

Shoppers who hit the stores on Black Friday are promised great bargains, and, if news reports are any indication, they are also offered something more abstract: the assurance that, by snapping up TVs, video games, and laptops, they are helping the US economy. 

In a story that ran on Sunday titled "Will Black Friday save the economy?" CBS MoneyWatch spelled out what's at stake:

The National Retail Federation predicts holiday sales will increase 4.1 percent this year to $586.1 billion. Actual holiday sales in 2011 grew 5.6 percent, better than the 10-year average annual growth rate of 3.5 percent. Additionally, shop.org expected online holiday sales to grow 12 percent over last holiday season to as much as $96 billion. To prepare for the potential uptick in sales, retailers are expected to hire between 585,000 and 625,000 seasonal workers this holiday season, comparable to the 607,500 seasonal employees they hired last year.

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