CHARGE (it)! Black Friday Begins Amid Hopeful Signs of Good Sales
CHARGE (it!)! Black Friday has begun and if you think the stampede in Cambodia was bad, and thought about two years ago the good news is: it’s more sedate this year (so far). And there are hopes retail sales this holiday season will be better than last year’s.
Bleary-eyed shoppers lined up before dawn today to push their way into stores across the nation, kicking off the annual Black Friday retail ritual.
No injuries were reported, unilke two years ago when a Walmart worker was trampled to death in Long Island, N.Y. This morning, mall and superstore parking lots were reported jammed in many parts of the country. They were all waiting to get a shot at the marked-down doorbuster deals.
In New York, when Macy’s flagship store at Herald Square opened at 4 a.m. there were 7,000 people waiting to get in. Macy’s CEO Terry Lundgren told ABC News that he’s optimistic this holiday period. “The pace is strong, a lot of shopping bags traveling around the store, so I feel very good so far,” he said.
As the econmy improves and people feel more secure in their jobs, pent-up demand will be unleashed, he says.
Marshal Cohen, chief analyst for MGD Group, was out with the crowds at 3 a.m. He told “Good Morning America” today that there’s a method to the madness of Black Friday shoppers.
“If you wait too long and think the deals are going to get bettter and better and better, they’re really not,” he said. Shoppers who wait thinking there’s much better deals to come may be disappointed. Retailers are conservative in what they buy, so you may just be getting the picked-over merchandise.
Melanie Devontino wasn’t about to let a deal slip through her hands.
The 26-year-old, shopping at a Wal-Mart Stores Inc. location in Greensboro, North Carolina, began opening a pallet full of Hewlett-Packard Co. printers shortly before 5 a.m. Employees patrolled the aisles around the pallets, so crowded shopping carts couldn’t get by, asking people to put the merchandise back. Devontino ignored them.
“I’m running hard,” said Devontino, who plans to spend $1,500 on holiday gifts, more than triple the amount she spent last year. Other shoppers thronged around her, carrying off digital cameras, desktop computers and other electronics.
Similar scenes played out across the U.S. as Black Friday, the biggest shopping day of the year, got off to its earliest start yet. About 7,000 people waited at 4 a.m. when Macy’s Inc.’s flagship store at Herald Square in New York opened, Chief Executive Officer Terry Lundgren said.
“It’s a steady stream that keeps on coming,” Lundgren told Bloomberg Television. “That’s greater than last year, certainly. We feel very optimistic about how the day has started.”
Shoppers are taking advantage of deals as they face down a slower economic recovery than projected. Retailers view Black Friday — so named because that’s when many stores become profitable — as a bellwether for the entire holiday season.
U.S. retailers began dangling Black Friday specials as early as Thanksgiving morning. Stores operated by Hoffman Estates, Illinois-based Sears Holdings Corp. opened at 7 a.m. yesterday. Twenty minutes after the Sears store in Whitehall, Pennsylvania opened, about an equal number of shoppers and sales associates mingled in the electronics department.
Good deals lured veteran Black Friday shoppers and first-timers alike this morning, as bargain hunters lined up at stores across Central to score discounts.
More than 650 people stood in a line that wrapped around the Best Buy on East Colonial Drive. The first person in line, John Carpio, 42, of Orlando claimed his spot at 6 p.m. Wednesday.
It’s his tradition to be first, he said.
“It’s fun,” he said. “The Christmas season has officially started.”
Tony Munoz, 47, of Orlando, was short on patience after waitng in line since 8 p.m. Thursday. But he held a ticket that guaranteed him a Blue-ray player for almost half-off.
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“I’m a virgin of Black Friday. This is my first time,” he said around 5:30 a.m. “It’s not that bad. You just have to wait in line . . .but you get the coveted items.”
At the Target at Winter Garden Village, Westinghouse 48-inch flat screen TVs sold out in under a minute, store workers said. The hot-ticket item, priced at $298, was placed in waiting carts for shoppers to pick up.
PSP bundles, for $169, were also fast sellers. Popular DVD movies sold for $1.99, while chenille throws were only $9.99.
Despite the frenzy for good deals, one employee said shoppers have been more polite this year.
Special sales and a sense of tradition pushed shoppers out the door early Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, traditionally seen as the start of the holiday shopping season.
Lines wrapped around stores and parking lots across the nation as shoppers sought early morning deals, especially on consumer electronics and toys. About 138 million Americans are expected to go shopping this weekend, and the Friday after Thanksgiving–frequently referred to as “Black Friday”–is expected to be the busiest shopping day of the year.
“We do it for the fun of it,” said Gail Giordano, who was in line preparing to enter a Target Corp. store in Hackensack, N.J., opening at 4 a.m. She and her husband were wearing matching pajamas. “It’s a tradition.”
Others were shopping for the sales, even if it was for others. At the front of a Best Buy Co. line in Schaumberg, Ill., was a bundled-up Jason Bauer, who was waiting in below-freezing temperatures for a flat-screen television and a laptop. But they weren’t for him–a friend’s wife paid him to stand there on her behalf. He arrived at 7 a.m. Thanksgiving morning with a tent and camped on the sidewalk for the night.
As for how much she was paying him, “less than she should be,” the 28-year-old responded.
Retailers use special promotions–like a $200 notebook at Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and a $298 high-definition TV at Target–to lure shoppers early. Frequently, those items don’t last long. Shopper Henry Diaz got in line at Target at 3:30 a.m. but was still not early enough to secure the $298 television.
All eyes will be on sales this holiday season. It it’s reported that retail sales go up, many will conclude — correctly or otherwise — that the economy is showing signs of being on the mend. If not? Watch for dissatisfaction over the economy and political bigwigs’ efforts to heal it continue to grow.
PHOTO: Is an online photo showing a past Black Friday sale.