Black Fri­day crowds thin af­ter US stores open on Thanks­giv­ing

Kuwait Times - - BUSINESS -

PITTS­BURGH/CHICAGO: Crowds were thin at US stores and shop­ping malls in the early hours of Fri­day, ini­tial spot checks showed, as shop­pers re­sponded to early Black Fri­day dis­counts with a mix of en­thu­si­asm and cau­tion.

Many shop­pers headed out to stores on Thanks­giv­ing evening, a month be­fore Christ­mas, re­flect­ing the new nor­mal in US hol­i­day shop­ping, which was tra­di­tion­ally kicked off the next day, Black Fri­day.

In an ef­fort to at­tract the most ea­ger hol­i­day shop­pers and fend off com­pe­ti­tion from Ama­ Inc, US re­tail­ers have in­creas­ingly ex­tended their hol­i­day deals by open­ing stores on the evening of Thanks­giv­ing. “It’s still early, and from what we are see­ing so far the crowds are good but not great,” Craig John­son, pres­i­dent of Cus­tomer Growth Part­ners, said late on Thurs­day. The re­tail con­sul­tancy had 18 mem­bers study­ing cus­tomer traf­fic in dif­fer­ent parts of the coun­try.

Mi­la­gros Munez, 39, a law clerk, was shop­ping for toys at the Tar­get store in New York’s Har­lem neigh­bor­hood. “We ac­tu­ally came early this morn­ing to miss the crowds. Now that some stores are open all night, I feel like more peo­ple go in the evening.”

The Macy’s Inc store at Wa­ter Tower Place mall in Chicago saw thin crowds in the early hours of Fri­day af­ter a fairly busy Thanks­giv­ing evening, store as­so­ciates said.

Nia Dar­rell, a 23-year-old stu­dent, was shop­ping for coats and hand­bags at the store with two friends. “I shopped on­line yes­ter­day and picked up most of what I wanted,” she said.” I’m out be­cause Black Fri­day is more like a tra­di­tion but the dis­counts are sim­i­lar even on­line this year.”

ON­LINE SALES STRONG Shop­pers in the United States spent more than $1 bil­lion on­line, 22-per­cent more than last year, be­tween mid­night and 5 pm ET on Thurs­day, ac­cord­ing to the Adobe Dig­i­tal In­dex, which tracked 100 mil­lion vis­its to 4,500 US re­tail sites.

Many stores around the coun­try were full on Thanks­giv­ing evening. Lo­cal me­dia re­ported brawl­ing shop­pers at a packed Ken­tucky mall on Thurs­day evening, forc­ing a po­lice of­fi­cer to in­ter­vene and break up the fight. Early Black Fri­day dis­counts at stores and on­line in­cluded buy one get 50 per­cent off on the sec­ond “Star Wars” toys at Tar­get Corp, $200 off quad­copter drones at Best Buy Co Inc, and a 50-inch Sam­sung smart TV for $499 at WalMart Stores Inc. As much as 20 per­cent of hol­i­day shop­ping is ex­pected to be done over the Thanks­giv­ing week­end this year, an­a­lysts said. The four-day shop­ping burst will help set the tone for the rest of the sea­son, sig­nal­ing to re­tail­ers whether they need to drop prices or change pro­mo­tions.

The shop­ping sea­son span­ning Novem­ber and De­cem­ber is cru­cial for many re­tail­ers be­cause the two months can ac­count for any­where from 20 to 40 per­cent of their an­nual sales. Shop­pers are ex­pected to be cau­tious with their spend­ing again this year. The Na­tional Re­tail Fed­er­a­tion is ex­pect­ing hol­i­day sales to rise 3.7 per­cent, slower than last year’s 4.1 per­cent growth rate, due to stag­nant wages and slug­gish job growth.

At around 6 am on Fri­day, sev­eral hun­dred cars were in the park­ing lot wrap­ping the Ross Park mall in Pitts­burgh. There was a good crowd walk­ing the mall al­though it was not overly crowded.

Jor­gette Clark, 27, said her bud­get would prob­a­bly be lower this year be­cause her hus­band works in the en­ergy in­dus­try. “I feel like we scaled back this year. Our hus­bands work in the oil fields... It’s prob­a­bly a smaller Christ­mas this year.” — Reuters

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