With Black Friday sales starting as early as 8 p.m. Thursday to kick off a four-day holiday shopping weekend, local retailers saw increased traffic and increased sales, a Lima Mall official said.
“We were really busy from 8 p.m. [Thursday] until 4 a.m. [Friday] and then it slowed down until about 9 or 10 a.m. [Friday] when it picked up back again for the rest of the day,” said Simon Marketing and Business Development Director Melinda Edler.
“We did see a lot of families out early to share the shopping experience this year,” she added.
The Lima Mall opened its doors at 6 p.m. Thanksgiving Day in anticipation of the major retailers opening at 8 p.m. Thanksgiving Day.
J.C. Penney store manager Dean Daugherty characterized Thursday and Friday as “a typical Black Friday” event.
While he could not provide sales figures for the holiday weekend on Monday, he said shoppers voiced their pleasure with the return of the Mickey Mouse-themed snow globes distributed to patrons — a tradition started in 2000 but skipped in 2012 before this year’s return. They were given to anyone entering the store while supplies lasted.
Daugherty said they are a favorite with traditional holiday shoppers.
Sears store manager Mike Fuerst said the weekend’s overall sales were as good as could be expected. “TVs are always hot, and people may be surprised, but actually appliances did very, very well.”
Fuerst said the opening of all the retail outlets in the mall affected initial foot traffic in his store, which was the only store to be open last year at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day.
“The initial crowd may have been a little bit smaller because last year we were the only one in the mall open at 8 [p.m. Thursday] and this year the entire mall was open,” Fuerst said. “There were a lot of people out this year, but not a lot of buyers.”
Fuerst’s evaluation is one shared by other retailers who offered deep discounts to convince American shoppers to spend.
“The economy spoke loud and clear over the past few days,” said Belus Capital Advisers CEO and chief equities strategist Brian Sozzi. “We are going to see an increase in markdowns.”
According to The Associated Press, a record 141 million people were expected to shop in stores and online over the four-day period that ended Sunday, up from last year’s 137 million, according to the results of a survey of nearly 4,500 shoppers conducted for The National Retail Federation.
But total spending was expected to fall for the first time since the trade group began tracking it in 2006, according to the survey that was released Sunday afternoon. During the four days, spending fell an estimated 2.9 percent to $57.4 billion.
Shoppers, on average, were expected to spend $407.02 billion during the four days, down 3.9 percent from last year. That would be the first decline since the 2009 holiday shopping season when the economy was just coming out of the recession.
The survey underscores the challenges stores have faced since the recession began in late 2007. Retailers had to offer deeper discounts to get people to shop during the downturn, but Americans still expect those “70 percent off” signs now during the recovery.
And stores may have only exacerbated that expectation this year. By offering bargains earlier in the season, it seems they’ve created a vicious cycle in which they’ll need to constantly offer bigger sales. Shoppers who took advantage of “holiday” deals before Thanksgiving may have deal fatigue and are cautious about buying anything else unless it’s heavily discounted.
The National Retail Federation President and CEO Matthew Shay said that the survey results only represent one weekend in what is typically the biggest shopping period of the year. The combined months of November and December can account for up to 40 percent of retailers’ revenue.
Overall, Shay said the trade group still expects sales for the combined two months to increase 3.9 percent to $602.1 billion. That’s higher than the 3.5 percent pace in the previous year.
But to achieve that growth, retailers will likely have to offer big sales events. In a stronger economy, people who shopped early would continue to do so throughout the season. But analysts say that’s not likely to be the case in this still tough economic climate.
“It’s pretty clear that in the current environment, customers expect promotions,” Shay said. “Absent promotions, they’re not really spending.”