Early shopping called good sign for retail
Thursday sales termed success
Steve Painter and Paul Quinn / Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
As Black Friday officially arrived at midnight Thursday, a group of four shoppers had been patiently waiting at the Best Buy in Rogers since 8 a.m. Sunday.
Robert Smith of Springdale had his eye on a 42-inch Sharp TV for $199 and a laptop computer for $179. Last year, he said, he scored a TV, two laptops and a game console that he uses both for work and video games.
“We do this every year,” Smith said.
U.S. retailers offered shoppers an unprecedented array of Black Friday starting times for the day-after-Thanksgiving unofficial launch of the Christmas shopping season including all day on Thanksgiving in some cases.
Now the counting begins, and the results are not expected to be impressive.
The National Retail Federation anticipates a 2.8 percent increase in sales, well short of last year’s 5.2 percent increase but a bit above the 10-year average of 2.8 percent.
The International Council of Shopping Centers forecasts a 2.2 percent increase, down from last year’s 5 percent gain at the retailers it tracks.
Andrea Springer of Bentonville also was after the 42-inch model at Best Buy, as well as a 55-inch Dynex TV for $599.99.
She and her mom both wanted a new TV, she said, and that she also was aiming for Blu-ray movies priced at $5 and games priced from $30 to $60.
Chris Hogg of Rogers said he was there for moral support. “It was her idea,” he said, pointing to Springer.
A new TV, a laptop and a game console were all on Rogers resident John Cunningham¹s list. The group took turns going home for Thanksgiving dinner.
Anna Curtis of Rogers was outside the Target store in Rogers, awaiting the store’s midnight opening Thanksgiving night. On her list was an Xbox 360 game console for $139.99.
Curtis said it was her first time waiting in line for a Black Friday opening. The store is adjacent to the Pinnacle Hills Promenade shopping center.
After grabbing the Xbox, she said, ‘We probably will go to the mall because it’s right there.’
Joining her a half-hour later was Maria Trejo of Lowell, who had a 40-inch TV priced at $265 on her list. After that, ‘maybe some blue jeans for my 8-year-old,’ she said.
Black Friday, so named because it is the time of year that retailers historically have become profitable, or ‘in the black,’ is among the biggest events of the year for retailers, although not always the biggest sales day.
Jeff Green, president and chief executive officer of retail consulting firm Jeff Green Partners in Phoenix, anticipates a flat Christmas sales season.
‘We may see a percent or two increase over last year,’ he said.
CHRISTMAS IN SEPTEMBER
Green noted that Wal-Mart rolled out its Christmas decor in September, which he said forced other retailers to pick up the pace.
“They’ve been fairly successful in terms of spurring on early sales,” he said.
With retailers moving back the sales start times into Thanksgiving Day, Green said, ‘Is Black Friday really a day or is it a term?’
Thursday evening at the Toys ‘R’ Us store in Little Rock, Greg Garling wouldn¹t say what he planned on buying for his two children.
I’m here for something very particular, but I can¹t tell you what it is, Garling said to someone in line. ‘Some of these people already know, and I don¹t want to take a chance anyone else knowing.’
A woman next to him chimed in, saying, ‘You know they only have two of those.’ Garling responded, Oh, man. I am No. 12.
He said this was his third Black Friday shopping venture and that he usually finds a good deal. He had just left Thanksgiving dinner to sit outside the Toys ‘R’ Us, which opened at 9 p.m.
Debbie Black of Little Rock was first in line at the Target near the Markham Street and University Avenue intersection. She said she was going after one of the TVs being sold for nearly 50 percent off.
I have a good time doing this, Black said. Most of the time its a lot of fun and you meet really nice people, but sometimes it gets ugly. She said last year, after waiting on a cold night in the sleet and rain, someone tried to cut in line at Toys ‘R’ Us at the last minute.
That’s when you get the yelling and cussing and fighting, Black said.
A quick survey of the first 10 people at the line at the Target showed most were going for the 46-inch flat screen Westinghouse TV for $289 about $260 less than the normal price of $549.99.
However, those deals were limited, Target said in advertising. About noon Friday, those deals had been long gone, but people could still get $100 off a 40-inch Westinghouse TV.
FORECAST: LIKE LAST YEAR
Green, the retail consultant, believes shoppers generally have a higher percentage of their shopping done already, compared to years past. He forecasts shopper traffic at about the same level as a year ago.
He said Toys ‘R’ Us will have a good season with its move into more electronics.
Department stores including Dillard’s and Macy’s likely will do OK, he said, though he contends those retailers have taught their customers to wait for the best deals.
Their eyes go directly to the sales rack, he said.
Thomson Reuters released estimates Friday indicating that sales at stores open at least a year, a key indicator of success in retailing, will be up 3.2 percent for November. A year ago, same-store sales rose 5.5 percent.
As shoppers were still working through their lists Friday morning, Wal-Mart announced a cyber sales event at its online shopping site, walmart.com, running from Sunday through Friday.
Among the deals were a 32-inch Toshiba LCD TV for $249, an Xbox 360 game bundle for $319, Hot Wheels Mega Garage Playset for $25 and a Tramontina Dutch oven for $35.
A survey by BIGresearch of Worthington, Ohio, found that about 152 million planned to shop Black Friday weekend, up from 138 million a year ago. Of those, about half had definite plans to shop and the other half were watching the ads and weather forecasts before making a final decision.
The survey was done for the National Retail Federation.
Though the sales events still fall under the broad umbrella of Black Friday, many chain stores opened their stores sometime Thanksgiving Day.
Matthew Shay, National Retail Federation president and chief executive officer, said Friday the move was a success.
EARLY OPEN WORTH IT
Early morning openings appear to have been well worth it for both retailers and holiday shoppers, with many Americans believing that deals were too good to pass up regardless of who they were shopping for, themselves or others, Shay said in a statement.
A separate survey, also by BIGresearch, found that 51 percent of online retailers planned sales for Thanksgiving Day and 78.4 percent had plans for Cyber Monday, promoted as a day of special online deals. The survey found that 58.4 percent of people who have Internet access at work will shop online from their offices.
Research by the NPD Group Inc. found that 64 percent of likely shoppers plan to spend about the same as a year ago, up from 61 percent a year ago, while 27 percent plan to spend, down from 30 percent. Nine percent planned to spend more, unchanged from last year.
Clothing topped NPD’s list of top gifts shoppers will be looking for at 43 percent, up one percentage point from a year ago, followed by toys at 31 percent, down one point.
Analysis by Thomson Reuters projects that sales at stores open at least a year will increase by 2.4 percent for retailers¹ fourth quarter, which includes the Christmas shopping season. That would double the performance of a year ago.
The Thomson Reuters analysis said discount stores, excluding Wal-Mart, and home furnishing stores should see strong same-store sales growth for the Christmas season. Wal-Mart’s most recent sales and earnings report showed the first gain in same-store sales in more than two years.
Not everyone was racing to get the best deals, instead some were out shopping to spend time with family while they all had the day off.
Priscilla Davenport of Russellville and her daughter-inlaw Libby Davenport of Sheridan planned to go into every store at the Midtowne Little Rock shopping center before going to The Promenade at Chenal in west Little Rock.
Asked why they didn’t go to any of the early morning or late night openings looking for a deal, Libby Davenport said, Because those people are crazy, that’s why.