The changing dynamics of Black Friday meant that some shopping malls had lines outside at predawn, while those that opened the night before had a mellower start.
Meanwhile, online sales were going gangbusters.
At 8 a.m. Friday, a smattering of shoppers wandered through Edina’s Southdale. It was open Thanksgiving night, when stores promoted Black Friday-only deals of 50 to 75 percent off.
Five high school friends from New Prague clustered around Caribou Coffee on the ground floor, holding packages and sipping frozen drinks through straws.
“We like it because it’s quiet,” said Lauren Vivant, 17. “They have the same deals, but it’s less busy. You can get in and out of stores much faster.”
Online shopping is great for some things, said Alicia Belfield, but it’s a solitary pursuit.
“Personally, I like trying things on,” she said. “And I like being with friends. Especially before college — it’s fun to get together and go shopping.”
Greg Maloney, CEO of Americas for JLL Retail, which manages many U.S. shopping centers, including Rosedale, said about half his properties reported slow traffic on Black Friday morning.
“They’re expecting it to pick up this afternoon,” he said, adding that he was having difficulty finding a parking space just after the noon hour at a mall in Atlanta. “It’s really picking up after lunch.”
And while the malls would likely be “crazy” later in the day, he noted that Black Friday traffic in itself doesn’t tell the whole story. Many stores saw big crowds on Thanksgiving night. And because many retailers launch promotions earlier in the week, people shopped more in the days leading up to Thanksgiving.
“I was up in Minnesota at Rosedale on Tuesday and it was packed with shoppers,” Maloney said.
In addition, online sales have surged this week, likely taking away some of the action from stores. According to Adobe Analytics, online sales on Thanksgiving Day rose 18 percent this year, to $2.87 billion. Some surveys showed that more people plan to shop online than in stores over Black Friday weekend, though online sites don’t do as high a dollar volume as stores do.
Best Buy CEO Hubert Joly said Thursday night that many more shoppers are using their phones to make purchases this year, especially via the retailer’s app. “The app business is growing very, very quickly,” he said.
Even as many retailers release doorbuster sales days in advance and more shoppers look for online bargains, the day after Thanksgiving remains one of the busiest of the year for brick-and-mortar retailers. Amid the pressure, every year some retailers inevitably have some issues handling the demand. This year, it was Macy’s that stumbled on Friday when its stores had trouble processing credit cards.
This was the second year in a row that Burnsville Center and Mall of America stayed closed on Thanksgiving, leaving shoppers that night to hit big-box stores and other malls.
At the Mall of America, that gamble seemed to have paid off with an estimated 2,500 people, about 1,000 more than last year, waiting in line at its north entrance when it opened at 5 a.m. Some eager shoppers arrived after their turkey dinner and stayed overnight to make sure they got one of the gift cards of $10 to $500 given to the first 200 people in line, as well as scratch-off tickets for other prizes.
“We feel like the kickoff was stronger than last year and you see the momentum building throughout the day,” said Jill Renslow, the mall’s senior vice president of marketing. “With the results we have so far, it’s a great indicator of what the weekend is going to be. We’ve talked to several retailers who have strong numbers that are meeting or exceeding expectations.”
For those worried about finding parking, the Mall of America offered free rides up to $25 to and from the mall through Uber, a promotion that will continue through this weekend and every Saturday in December.
Among those who lined up for the mall’s 5 a.m. opening was Allison Novak of Downers Grove, Ill. She stood close to the parking lot and surveyed the sea of people in front of her. Her mood? “Determined.”
Teaming up with her sister-in-law, Marissa McGann of Maple Grove, Novak had done a Thanksgiving eve retail sweep at Target, Walmart and Kohl’s. “It’s all about the experience,” McGann said.
Black Friday shopping remains a team event for many, and a festive way kick off the holidays.
Neighbors Naomi Larson and Jami Kiecker of Elko have been hitting the early-morning sales together for 14 years. Times have changed, but not the thrill of the hunt. “The deals are not as good as they used to be, that’s for sure,” Larson said.
Retailers are looking for ways to drum up more traffic throughout the weekend. Target will give shoppers $25 off if they spend $75 on Christmas decorations this weekend.
Best Buy said it would have limited quantities of the Super NES, which sold out immediately when it first went on sale in late September, available in stores on Saturday morning.
And then, Cyber Monday arrives with a wave of online deals. Many retailers aren’t limiting the deals to Monday, however, and are dangling promotions all week in what they now call Cyber Week.
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