Apple's one-day Black Friday sale rolled out from midnight around the world, offering gift cards in most places instead of discounts on major items and accessories. Europe is a little luckier with discounts on the iPad Air and iPad Mini. Major retailers, meanwhile, continue to do all they can to attract customers with big deals — for the second consecutive day.

From Grey Thursday to Black Friday

Thanksgiving Day shopping in the US cut into the volume of Black Friday retail sales, according to early analysis today from Chris Christopher, director of Consumer Economics at IHS Global Insight. In an interview this afternoon with CMSWire, Christopher confirmed Grey Thursday, as the day before Black Friday is now being called, tempered enthusiasm for the traditional busy shopping day today.

He described foot traffic in brick-and-mortar stores today as "relatively light." However, online sales were especially strong both today and yesterday, which could weaken volume when Cyber Monday comes in three days.

Apple was its usual cautious self today, keeping prices high on its major product lines but offering gift cards with top ticket items in the US. Shoppers can pick up an iPad Air and get a $75 gift card or buy a Mac and get a $150 card, either online or in Apple's stores.

Even third-party devices such as HP printers, Nest smart thermostats, Nike FuelBands and LaCie external hard drives come with gift cards. The same strategy is being taken in Apple stores in Australia and Asian, which were the first to kick off their sales as the calendars switched to Friday.

Europeans are getting a slightly better deal in terms of hard cash savings. In the UK, for instance, Apple is offering discounts of 31 pounds ($50) on an iPad Air, 15 pounds ($24) on an iPad mini, 81 pounds ($132) on a MacBook Air and so on. But there are no signs of reductions on the latest iPhones.

Online or in Stores

There were long lines long lines at retail stores worldwide today, despite the fact Christopher described Black Friday as a largely American phenomenon. In Europe, Sony's PlayStation 4 launched, boosting the battle for dominance between Sony and Microsoft's Xbox One console.

Online, warm up events went into overdrive as the big day arrived, with Amazon's big sale slashing up to 50 percent off big-screen HDTVs, notebooks, computer accessories and smaller treats. With similarly competitive offers from most online retailers.

Buyers braving the cold got to see the balloons fly at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade before diving into traditional stores for their bargains. Friday will bring yet more deals for those braving snow across the eastern states. Let us know if you picked up a great bargain, or if the entire day was more about family for you, perhaps with some sneaky online deals.