Thousands of Oakland County residents brave cold weather to shop on Black Friday
Joe Szczesny/The Oakland Press
Shoppers crowded into stores Friday as the holiday shopping season got off to a big start across Oakland County.
More than 600 shoppers were in line when the Best Buy in Auburn Hills opened at midnight, according to store employees.
At mid-morning, a steady stream of cars filled the Great Lakes Crossing Outlet Mall in Auburn Hills. Just before lunch, every space in the parking deck behind Somerset North in Troy was filled, and mall security was directing the overflow into the parking lot of a nearby office building just to the east of the mall.
The shoppers themselves seemed undaunted by the crowds or the brisk weather that had turned decidedly brisk with snow flurries and temperatures in the 30s after a warm spell just one day before.
Katie McKinney of Troy said she and her husband had been out since 6 a.m. and had already been to several stores before arriving at the Best Buy off of Brown Road.
“We’re going to make a whole day of it. … We spent a long time a long time in the Coach store, and we’ve been to Costco,” said McKinney, adding she was planning to go home for lunch before going out again for the special “Black Friday” sales at Dunham’s.
“It’s fun,” said McKinney, who prepared by studying circulars distributed by the various merchants. “You have to line it because everybody has their own special time when they’re offering the deals.”
Christine and Peter Harris of Clarkston also joined the Black Friday crowds.
“We’ve already been to Kohl’s,” said Christine Harris, adding they had stopped at Best Buy for some serious technology sales.
Peter Harris said he managed to purchase one of the laptops that were on sale for Black Friday.
“We got the last one,” he said.
Jeff Green, a consultant who keeps tabs on shopping trends around the country, said, “I don’t think it’s going to be an extravagant Christmas. But I think it’s going to be pretty darn good.”
Green added that, for many shoppers, Black Friday has become something of a social event.
“It’s a way to go out with friends,” he said.
Overall, local malls such as Great Lakes Crossing and Twelve Oaks were expecting a solid Christmas season.
The “Back To School” sales were very good, setting the stage for a bright holiday season, Green said.
Patricia Huddleston, a professor of advertising, public relations and retailing at Michigan State University, also said this year’s holiday shopping outlook is “positive,” especially when it comes to online sales, which are expected to increase by about 12 percent compared to last year.
Online sales should increase to about $96 billion this year, she said.
“Technology items and gift cards should do particularly well this year,” she said, “but all categories — apparel, cookware, toys, to name a few — are expected to see increases.”
“Many stores installed their holiday departments well before Halloween costumes were marked down,” Huddleston said. “This is evidence of the cutthroat competition for the $586 billion in holiday sales.”
Due to the tough economy, a number of retailers are bringing back free layaway. But at the same time, shoppers are more dependent on their mobile devices.
“According to Google research,” Huddleston said, “four out of five shoppers will use smart phones for price comparison, store locations and to order online.”