Black Friday shoppers show up big
Despite the down economy and some unfavorable weather in some parts of the country, bargain shoppers in Boston and nationwide snagged Black Friday deals that included flat-screen TVs and e-book readers.
Shoppers were turning out in full fource force yesterday, leading analysts to expect holiday sales to be up over last year -- possibly as much as by four percent above 2009 sales, as predicted by the Retailers Association of Massachusetts. That bodes well for retailers, who often depend on revenue from the holiday shopping season of November and December to carry them through the rest of the year.
Jon Hurst, president of the state retailers association, said he has watched Black Friday shoppers at the Northshore Mall for the last two decades and was "very, very encouraged" by yesterday's crowds.
"This was a bigger mid-morning crowd than I've ever seen here, with lots of bags," Hurst said. "It's only one day, but hopefully an indicator of the four weeks to come."
Locally, the turnout was strong. There was a line of 400 people at the Toys R Us at Northshore Mall by the time the store opened at midnight. There was a snaking line in the parking lot of least a couple hundred people waiting to snag a $299 flat-screen TV at the Target in South Bay Plaza by 4 a.m. yesterday. And, as of noon yesterday, car traffic was up 10 percent over last year at CambridgeSide Galleria.
Retailers kicked off the busy holiday shopping season with expanded hours, deep discounts, and online deals to entice bargain-hungry shoppers. In spite of the rainy, chilly start to Black Friday, turnout at local malls and retailers from South Shore Plaza to Cambridgeside Galleria to North Shore Mall was strong following a weeks-long push by retailers to get shoppers to open their wallets with early deals. People snagged deals on everything from the mundane (socks, towels) to the luxurious (big-screen televisions, jewelry).
For Shanthi Thota, of Peabody, Black Friday was a new experience. She
staked out Northshore Mall while her husband shopped at WalMart. Eventually, she
became so loaded down with bags that she had to wait for him to return with
“It’s good,” Thota said of the deals. The best, she said, was a Bella Cucina blender for $9.99 after rebate at Macy’s. Her haul also included cameras, picture frames, and Pyrex baking dishes. She plans on sending much of it to relatives in India. “This Thanksgiving, I’m spending a lot of money.”
Maribel Pena, 55, was in a 100-person-deep line at the Best Buy in Cambridgeside Galleria this morning. She wanted to buy a $139 23-inch Samsung TV.
"That's it. No money," said Pena, who has had her hours cut at the Dorchester preschool where she works and plans to spend less than she did last year.
At the WalMart in Quincy, at least a few hundred diehard shoppers lined up outside the store well before it opened at 4 a.m. for bargains that included a $198 Emerson 32-inch TV set and an eMachine laptop for the same price.
"It's like we're here to see the President,'' said Marla McRae, standing behind themed-park like metal grates with her teenager daughters, 16 and 17, this morning. "This is ridiculous."
McRae, of Jamaica Plain, said she plans to spend the same as she did last year and believes other shoppers will too. "Economy or not, people will spend their money,'' she said before dashing into the store as it opened.
It was a similar scene inside the South Shore Plaza in Braintree where doors opened at 5 a.m. today. Shoppers flocked to The Gap, which offered 50 percent deals off everything in the store until noon and Express, which had discounts of 40 percent. And mall goers loaded up on movies that were priced as low as $1.99 at the new Target store.
"I haven't slept yet,'' said Dilva Timas, 24, of Roxbury holding two bags of 20 dresses she bought at H&M for $5 each by 6 a.m. She was at the mall with her brother, uncle and aunt. "We've gotten some good deals."
Across town at South Bay Plaza, there was already a line of at least a couple hundred shoppers at Target before the store opened at 4 a.m. Many wanted to buy the 40-inch TVs on sale for $299. Within five minutes of opening, the TVs on the floor were gone; within 20 minutes the entire stock was gone.
Friends Jessica Andrews, 32, and Tanya Jones, 31 -- both of Dorchester -- were each able to grab the TVs that were on sale after standing in line for eight hours.
Mildred Ynoa, 29, of Boston, also snagged one of Target's flat-screen TVs. Additionally, she picked up a microwave, coffeemaker, and sandwich maker. Ynoa said she plans to spend more this year than she did last year, but she hadn't decided how much yet.
"Last year, I didn't shop that much because I wasn't working last year," she said.
Across the parking lot at Best Buy, which opened at 5 a.m., the line snaked throughout the shopping plaza as some people who couldn't get the TV deal at Target decided to see if they could get a similar bargain at the consumer electronics retailer.
Meanwhile, some people, many holding umbrellas as the rain poured early this morning, said they had skipped dinner yesterday so that they could be in line at Best Buy in South Bay Plaza at 10 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day to buy laptops that were as low as $200. Meanwhile, at TJ Maxx in the same shopping plaza, customers were slowly beginning to trickle in when the store opened at 6 a.m. -- an hour earlier than was advertised.
Amaury Charles, 34 of Dorchester, was in TJ Maxx looking at cologne while his wife was at Best Buy trying to buy an Ipad for their three kids. This year, the couple are a little bit more confident than they were last year: They have a budget of $2,400 for holiday shopping -- a slight improvement over last year.
"It's actually a little better than last year," said Charles, a maintenance worker. "I just got a part time job a few months ago, so that helps."
In the weeks leading up to Black Friday, shoppers remained cautious about what they planned to purchase, with many saying that they planned to spend about the same as last year, if not less. Much of that caution is a holdover from the last few years, when consumers had to cut their household spending budgets as the economy worsened and the unemployment rate rose. Recovery has been slow.
In hopes of drawing shoppers, some retailers rolled out door-buster deals before Black Friday, while other stores, like Wal-Mart and Toys "R" Us, opened earlier than usual yesterday.
Retailers are predicting at least modest sales gains for November and December, the two months that make up the crucial holiday shopping season. Many retailers rely on revenue from this period to carry them through the rest of the year, and often spend weeks, if not months, prepping for the holiday season -- especially Black Friday.
Holiday sales in the state are expected to increase 4.3 percent over 2009's sales for the same period, according to a prediction from the Retailers Association of Massachusetts. That's better than what the National Retail Federation is predicting for the nation as a whole. The national retail group said it expects sales to be up 2.3 percent, which is slightly lower than average but better than 2009 when sales were nearly flat from the previous year.
Despite the overall high turnout of early morning shoppers, not every store was bustling this morning. The Apple store in Cambridgeside Galleria, for instance, had more employees than shoppers at about 7:30 a.m.
And bad weather could put a damper on sales. Rain was falling or threatening much of the East Coast, and early morning temperatures were in the teens and 20s throughout the Midwest and mountain states, according to the National Weather Service.
Associated Press contributed to this report.