Jersey Shore: Black Friday shoppers descend on stores in search of deals
Bargain-hunting becomes an after-dinner ritual
Ken Serrano, Kevin Penton, Terry Gauthier Muessig, Bob Vosseller and David P. Willis / Asbury Park Press
Mary Higham didn’t leave much time between Thanksgiving dinner and what’s become the flip side of the holiday for many people.
As some of the shops at Jersey Shore Premium Outlets in Tinton Falls neared their 9 p.m. opening, Higham and her relative Norma Higham stood outside Kate Spade New York, ready to roll. Shopping on Thanksgiving night or early on so-called Black Friday has become a tradition for the Manasquan women, a ritual that follows the carving of the turkey.
But not everyone at the Higham household springs from the dinner table to grab deals, said Mary Higham.
“The rest of the family thinks we’re crazy,” she said. “They’re probably sleeping on couches right about now.”
Like an advancing cavalry, the front line of shoppers stampeded through the mall’s gates, literally shouting “woooo” as they tried to outrun each other.
Although the mall officially opened at midnight, most of its shops chose to open at either 9 or 10 p.m., said Michele Deroian, Jersey Shore’s assistant general manager. “Our shoppers keep coming earlier and earlier,” Deroian said. “This is really the Super Bowl of shopping.”
While Black Friday continues its steady encroachment on that Thursday traditionally set aside to give thanks, the early indication on Friday afternoon was that retailers benefited.
The number of shoppers hitting the stores for early bird specials rose by about 10 to 12 percent over last year, said C. Britt Beemer, founder and chief executive officer of America’s Research Group.
Consumers preferred the earlier store openings, shopping at midnight, rather than 4 a.m. or 6 a.m. “They could get in and get their shopping done and get a good night’s sleep,” Beemer said.
Retailers, such as Best Buy, increased the number of specials and scrawled lower prices on tags, he said.
Debra Panzarella, marketing manager of Freehold Raceway Mall in Freehold Township, said a majority of the mall’s 230 stores were open at midnight, with the exception of anchor stores — Lord & Taylor, Nordstrom, Sears and JCPenney — which opened a few hours later.
The decision to open at midnight this year was resulted from the overwhelming success of last year’s midnight start that involved about 30 stores, she said.
Sue Tonzini of Bordentown, along with her son, Greg Tonzini, and his friend, Dennis Baker, both 17, got to Freehold Raceway Mall by 10 on Thanksgiving night.
The main objective: to be one of the first 30 people on line at Footaction. The store was unveiling its limited edition Air Jordan 3 cement grey sneakers at $160.
By 5:30 a.m. the two pairs of sneakers each were tucked away in the trunk of Sue Tonzini’s car, and the boys were taking a snooze at one of the seating areas in the mall.
By 6:30 a.m. the mall was crowded, but the stores were not overwhelmed with lines of people at cash registers.
The Ocean County Mall in Toms River also opened the floodgates earlier. “It is extremely busy here tonight,” said Peter Lembo, the general manager of the mall. “Officially we open at 4 a.m. but with Macy’s opening at midnight, a few other stores opted to do the same.’’
Business was also brisk at the Best Buy store in Brick.
Elizabeth Kuba of Lakehurst was determined to purchase a Sharp 42-inch LCD 1080p flat-screen TV that was marked down from $499 to $199 at the electronics store.
Kuba camped out at the store at 7 p.m. on Wednesday and was the first in line awaiting the opening of the store.
“I’m here solo but I’ve made a number of friends here. We’re now an extended family,” she said. “I’ve done Black Friday before but I’ve never camped out.’’
Dave Porciello of Brick is a member of that extended family. He came out to buy several sports video games. “We came here as strangers but now we are connected on Facebook,” he said.
Customers were let in 50 shoppers at a time.
Marko Reyes of Belmar also wanted the Sharp TV. “I had a tent and spent 26 hours here,’’ he said.
Some signs emerged that the enthusiasm for post-feast shopping may not have grown but was simply divided by more hours.
Retail consultant Jeff Green said Target was busy from about midnight to 3 a.m., but traffic died off afterward.
“Maybe what is happening is the extended hours just has taken that Black Friday traffic and spread it over a distance,” said Green, president and chief executive officer of Jeff Green Partners in Phoenix, Ariz.
The electronics aisles were popular destinations in the stores, he said.
“People are buying gifts the whole family can enjoy, the TV, the Blu-ray,’’ Green said.
There were no local reports of “competitive shoppers” resorting to measures such as using pepper spray to keep others away from Microsoft Xboxes, which one woman in California is alleged to have done.
Earlier starts in general meant quieter mornings at many stores.
At the Walmart on Route 66 in Neptune, shoppers inside at 11 a.m. aggressively picked through videos in bins bearing the effective marketing slogan “while supplies last.” But there were no mosh pits forming in the electronics section or other signs of chaos.
“There were no lines, no hassles, nobody scratching each others’ eyes out,” Dora Sibilia of Toms River said, while loading her haul into her trunk.