Black Friday shoppers get a jump on holiday bargains locally
Nov 23, 2012 (Pioneer Press - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
The deals were hot, but the weather was not, as the earliest start yet to Black Friday shopping was dogged by wet snow and icy winds.
A few hearty shoppers waited outdoors Thanksgiving night to grab deals on flat-screen TVs and other big-ticket items. But the lines were noticeably shorter than last year, when the weather was nicer and stores opened later.
Melissa Gardner of St. Paul arrived at the Roseville SuperTarget four hours before doors opened at 9 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 22. She was third in line. Although she was protected by two jackets, a sweatshirt and a blanket, the cold wind still made for a tough night.
"I'm freezing, and the snow is going through my blanket now," she said.
Many other shoppers headed indoors to the malls, which have embraced the midnight kickoff to Black Friday in a big way.
A year ago, nine stores at Rosedale Center opened at midnight for Black Friday; this year, there were 55, including Macy's and Herberger's.
Still, for some energized shoppers, it wouldn't be a Black Friday without the adventure of a wait in line.
Leslie Lucht of St. Paul was sixth in line outside the Roseville Best Buy. He arrived at 6 a.m. Thanksgiving morning, but his family had arranged to take turns holding his spot, so nobody would miss the holiday dinner.
"My daughter sat here so I could go home to eat," Lucht said. "The only thing I missed was the football game."
And with his new 55-inch, high-definition TV, the next football game
should look pretty sharp.
While the snowy weather clearly affected crowds in the Twin Cities, early reports from other cities suggested Black Friday lines also tended to be smaller than previous years. Whether that was due to online competition or something else, the industry will watch those trends intensely.
Early data from IBM Smarter Commerce showed that, as of 11 a.m. Thanksgiving Day, online sales were up 14.3 percent from last year, the Associated Press reported.
Black Friday was once famed for 6 a.m. doorbusters, but big retailers led by Walmart have pushed ever-earlier starting times.
This year, Walmart unveiled its first Black Friday specials at 8 p.m. Thanksgiving. Then Target moved its opening time to 9 p.m. Both discounters drew criticism for encroaching on the national holiday.
Walmart is facing scattered protests and pickets at its stores Friday, including a demonstration scheduled for 11 a.m. at its St. Paul Midway location.
Meanwhile, Minneapolis-based Target is facing an online petition at Change.org, urging the retailer to "Take the high road and save Thanksgiving." More than 370,000 people signed it.
Yet Thanksgiving already is a big day for online shopping, and brick-and-mortar retailers feel pressured to compete.
"We clearly see the Grinch in this, and it is the Internet," wrote Stephen Baker, an industry analyst with NPD Group. "Fear is driving retailers to open earlier and earlier, to leave a shorter and shorter window" for online-only shoppers.
Even so, most retailers decline to opening on Thanksgiving Day. But they've embraced midnight in a big way.
Besides the many stores at Rosedale Center, most of the stores at Maplewood Mall also opened at midnight. At Mall of America in Bloomington, 185 did, too.
The National Retail Federation estimates 147 million Americans will shop over Black Friday weekend, both in stores and online. Last year, U.S. consumers spent some $52 billion
on the busy shopping weekend -- and that's forecast to increase.
Most surveys suggest a somewhat stronger holiday overall for retailers, as worries about the recession and difficult recovery fade. The calendar is helping, too, giving stores the maximum number of shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Twin Cities consumers plan to spend about 3 percent more on the holidays this year, a Deloitte & Touche survey found. Another Twin Cities' survey from the University of St. Thomas found an even stronger sense of local optimism.
And nationally, holiday sales are forecast to rise 4.1 percent, the National Retail Federation said.
"This is the most optimistic forecast NRF has released since the recession," said its CEO, Matthew Shay.
Tom Webb can be reached at 651-228-5428. Follow him at twitter.com/TomWebbMN.
___ (c)2012 Pioneer Press (St. Paul, Minn.) Visit the Pioneer Press (St. Paul,
Minn.) at www.twincities.com Distributed by MCT Information Services
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