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

Sales tax may be hurting Amazon's bottom line, but overseas, online sales have been booming on similar shopping holidays.

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If you're a savvy Black Friday shopper, you've studied the layout of the stores you want to shop days before the event. You've scouted out the most efficient way to get the items you want and get to the checkout line.

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You may have even gone online to look at store layouts, which are even available on Google Maps. (Check it out with the store you're in, or click here to see the store then click on the marker and zoom in to see the layout of a Best Buy in Compton, Calif.)

But now that you're standing in line for checkout, does anything look different? Take a look around (that is, if you can see anything with all those 60-inch TVs sitting in people's shopping carts).

You may notice that the store looks less cluttered. Maybe the aisles are wider.  That's what stores do when anticipating a rush of customers, such as on Black Friday. They tweak the store's layout.

Here's the tweaking jcpenney has done for Black Friday:

Along with holiday décor incorporating jcpenney’s button campaign, each jcpenney store features a refreshed presentation this season:

  • Racks have less merchandise, are featured side-by-side and have been moved 18 inches away from the aisle, offering a cleaner and less cluttered presentation.
  • Color blocking is used across departments to create strong merchandise statements.
  • Brands and prices are prominently highlighted while sitting/resting areas have also been added throughout the store.

"We know that the first thing on our customers’ holiday shopping lists is a convenient, hassle-free shopping experience," writes jcpenney spokeswoman Sarah Holland in an e-mail. "Team members throughout the store will be equipped with mobile checkout devices, giving customers a fast and easy way to complete their credit card purchases so that they can spend less time in line. As part of this service, customers also have the option of having their receipt e-mailed to them."

At Walmart, they "make the flow smoother," says one knowledgeable observer. "They staff up appropriately. There are a lot of people out in the red shirts that are big-event staffs, making sure folks are in line."

Online stores also staff up to anticipate the rush of orders. This year, for example, Amazon is hiring 50,000 seasonal workers to help fulfill customer orders, an Amazon spokeswoman writes in an e-mail.

Of course, all that tweaking doesn't eliminate long lines and delays at the store – or even sometimes online.

Updated Friday 1:55 a.m.

Two minutes before the doors opened on Black Friday at the Walmart store in Framingham, Mass., whoops went up from the hundreds of shoppers waiting in a line that snaked out into the parking lot.

It was that way at Walmart stores across the country.

"WalMart looking like a #Zoo! Every parking spot is full!" tweeted Atlanta resident Antonio Citty Eagle.

"You can't tell that this line wraps around four aisles for a 10:00 PM sale on televisions," tweeted Andrew Grossman of Portland, Ore.

Walmart's controversial strategy of opening at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day in most of its stores around the United States seemed to be paying off. "

"It's pretty obvious that this is a successful day," says one eyewitness at the Framingham, Mass., store. "The stores are busy and a lot of people are coming out."

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