Black Friday gets a little less frenzied

  • Article by: JOHN EWOLDT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 24, 2012 - 6:52 AM

Bargains now run from Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday, taking some of the luster off Friday as the ultimate one-day spectacle of shopping.

Let other people line up in the evening hours of Thanksgiving Day.

Amanda Lefald of White Bear Lake was happy to see shorter lines and less frantic traffic as she shopped Friday morning at Rosedale shopping mall.

"Everything's a little slower," she said of the pace to her Black Friday shopping.

With major retailers opening stores Thursday across the country and Web retailers preparing a marketing blitz for Cyber Monday, the day after Thanksgiving is losing some of its luster as the ultimate one-day spectacle of shopping.

Retailers were hoping to draw more consumers this year by rolling out Black Friday promotions a day early on Thanksgiving. While it's too early to determine if they succeeded, about 17 percent of shoppers said they planned to shop at stores that opened on Thanksgiving, according to an International Council of Shopping Centers-Goldman Sachs survey.

No doubt, Americans were ready to hit the stores after their Thanksgiving feast, as retailers reported lines of shoppers at many store openings in major markets. Over the weekend, more than 147 million Americans are expected to do some holiday shopping, according to the National Retail Federation, and some of them will take part in Small Business Saturday, which encourages shoppers to patronize neighborhood stores.

With promotions from one day to the next, Black Friday isn't just a 24-hour event, but a long weekend that stretches from Thursday through Monday, analysts said.

"Black Friday will be diminished because of Black Thursday," said Burt Flickinger, president at Strategic Resource Group. "What retailers gained on Thanksgiving they will give up on other days."

StyledLife boutique in the Galleria in Edina, for example, expects to have its biggest volume day on Saturday, said salesman Tim Creagan. "People like to start the day with breakfast and then it's on to shopping," Creagan said. "People are much more relaxed on Saturday."

David Hougen, who picked up bargain DVDs and CDs at Target, said he avoids the crush by shopping in his south Minneapolis neighborhood and online.

Even more shoppers are bypassing crowded stores and long lines by shopping online. Sales are expected to hit another record this year, up 12 to 14 percent, said Flickinger, although that will be hurt as more states charge sales tax for online purchases. Last year, online sales were up 33 percent on Cyber Monday, compared with 2011.

Despite extended store hours and cyber deals, some say it isn't time to bury Black Friday just yet. Shopping technology company ShopperTrak estimates that sales on Black Friday will climb 3.8 percent to $11.4 billion this year.

Gradual changes

Wal-Mart reported record numbers of shoppers on Thanksgiving, Flickinger said. Many were chasing a common Black Friday target, a cheap flat-screen TV. Wal-Mart sold out its selection of an Emerson 32-inch LCD TV for $148 within 30 minutes of the store opening.

Similar sellouts happened at Best Buy, with a Toshiba 40-inch LCD for $180, and at Target, with an Apex 32-inch LCD for $147. Many analysts said that TVs wouldn't be a big draw this year, but that prediction fell flat.

Prices were so cheap that shoppers couldn't resist them, said Britt Beemer of America's Research Group. Last year's best deal was $300 for a Sharp TV. This year, Best Buy, Target and Wal-Mart all had big TVs for less than $150. "People were paying cash, the price was so low," Beemer said.

A crowd of 30,000 showed up to shop at Mall of America at midnight when many stores opened, up from 27,000 last year, said Dan Jasper, mall spokesman. The mall expects to report a 10 percent increase in its visitors this weekend.

For most shoppers, it's the low prices that get them out the door early Friday morning.

Yantzy, Cynthia and Jimena Escoto, sisters from West St. Paul, were on a mission to find "great stuff at great prices" at Rosedale. "I got some really, really good deals," said Cynthia, but she wouldn't get up so early again without the lure of the door busters.

While electronics usually gets the most attention on Black Friday, Beemer said that's changing this year. Furniture and mattress stores saw a bump too.

"Consumers are no longer postponing big ticket purchases for themselves," Beemer said.

Call it pent-up demand, but whether it's a new TV or a sofa and loveseat, people are finally willing to spoil themselves a bit. Slumberland, which had about 30 people in line when the doors opened in Bloomington, was selling a La-Z-Boy for $200 and sofa and loveseat for $500.

"We had solid traffic all day long and people were saving 60 to 75 percent on some items," said Bloomington manager Greg Tangen.

Overall, analysts said that Best Buy and Target got the season off to a strong start. The 9 p.m. opening at Target meant families could bring the kids. "People weren't just grabbing the door busters and going home," Flickinger said. "They shopped home decor and apparel, too."

Best Buy impressed shoppers by having most items in stock. "As long as the item is in stock at a great price," Flickinger said, "people will show up any day, Black Friday or no Black Friday."

Star Tribune staff writer James Walsh contributed to this report. John Ewoldt • 612-673-7633

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