Black Friday isn't just one day any more

Toledo shoppers flock to mall, big-box stores.

By Jon Chavez / The Blade
Fri, 29 Nov 2019 14:20:59 GMT

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When Franklin Park Mall opened at 8 a.m. Friday, it looked like any day other than Black Friday.

There were no crowds, and prime parking spaces could easily be had.

The situation was similar at many of the big-box retailers throughout Toledo, but that didn’t mean business is down to start this holiday shopping season; rather the quiet Friday morning was a result of how Black Friday has evolved into a four-day event.

"Thanksgiving has become so much more spread out," Casey Pogan, marketing manager at Franklin Park, said early Friday. "Just wait. By noon or 1 p.m. this place will be rocking."

Indeed, the mall, which opened on Thanksgiving evening at 6 p.m. and closed at midnight, was fulfilling Ms. Pogan's prediction by 9 a.m., and by 10 a.m. long lines could be seen at mall bellwether stores like Pandora, Victoria's Secret, Pink, and Eddie Bauer.

"So far all of our store managers are reporting strong sales," Ms. Pogan said Friday morning.

In Maumee, the start to Black Friday was “Terrific — just terrific” at the Appliance Center store, manager Jim Grzywinski, said.

“We had to open up early because we had about 50 or 60 people waiting outside. Since then the day has been very steady and right now we’re up a little over last year,” he said.

Mr. Grzywinski said this year’s “doorbuster” items, 32-inch TV for $99 and a 43-inch TV for $173, were gone pretty quickly.

“People had their newspaper ads with them and they knew what they wanted,” he said.

Overall, it was a less harried, more jovial Black Friday, the store manager said.

“The attitude of the people coming in was a happy one. It was great,” he said. “Electronics and white goods (refrigerators and washers) was the biggest sellers. But surprisingly, we have sold a lot of furniture and we’re very happy about that.”

The National Retail Federation said this holiday season will be a strong one for retailers with sales ranging between 3.8 percent and 4.2 percent higher than 2018.

Previously, Black Friday shopping used to be a huge one-day event starting in the wee hours of the morning but it has evolved into a multi-day event over the last decade as more retailers choose to start offering deals on Wednesday or earlier, and more open their doors on the Thanksgiving holiday.

Predictably, shoppers have adapted to this retailer evolution.

Best Buy, for example, opened at 5 p.m. Thursday and as customary, long lines of consumers who normally wait overnight for a Friday opening were waiting patiently on Thanksgiving afternoon. At Walmart stores in Toledo shoppers crowded in at 6 p.m. Thursday to get TVs and other items at significant discounts of up to $300 or more.

"Walmart was the only crazy, crazy place we went [Thursday]," said Renee Noland, part of a power-shopping trio consisting of Ms. Noland and two friends, sisters Vicki McCracken and Michelle Raymer.

The three women set out from Monroe to begin shopping at 6 p.m. Thursday and were still at it by 10 a.m. Friday with two more stops to make.

“Kohl’s was pretty busy too. Target wasn’t busy, but we were there at 1 a.m.,” Ms. Noland said.

The three have been Black Friday shopping together for over a decade and call themselves the Black Friday Squad. They had special T-shirts with the name emblazoned on it.

Though they had gifts to buy for others, some of the items bought or sought on Friday were for themselves, they said.

“We’ll shop together anyways,” Ms. McCracken said. “It doesn’t have to be Black Friday. Mainly, we just like finding bargains, the challenge of the hunt.”

While the Black Friday Squad were shopping veterans, another trio at Franklin Park was there to see what the fuss is all about.

“This is our first Black Friday,” explained Christian Fritch, 15, a sophomore at Whitmer High School, said.

Young Fritch, along with friends Stanley Miller and Brooklin Warren, both 15 and Whitmer students, walked to the mall from their nearby homes at 4 a.m. Friday. By 9 a.m. they had several bags of merchandise, mostly clothing they purchased at hefty discounts.

“Hollister has stuff at 50 percent off and everything at Aeropostale was 60 to 70 percent off,” Christian said lifting a bag containing a sweatsuit and other items. “Normally I’d be home sleeping, but I’m here because I just want to look better. I want to look fresh,” he said.

While many shoppers made their way to the stores Friday, others decided to sleep in or shop from home via computer or phone.

Last year for the first time more people shopped online during the Thanksgiving Weekend than in stores (41.4 million to 34.7 million), according to the National Retail Federation. The trend was expected to continue again this weekend with 56 percent of shoppers predicted to buy items online compared to in stores.

However, that won’t hurt the bottom line of retailers, most of which have been preparing for the trend by developing their own websites and online strategies while also operating brick and mortar stores.

J.C. Penney, for example, has been touting its new JCPenney App for smart phones that help manage product purchases and customer rewards.

“I will tell you that our dotcom sales have been very strong so far,” Joy Findley, manager of the J.C. Penney store at Franklin Park, said Friday while speaking of the app. “We’ve been seeing a lot of people coming in and using the JCPenney App and we’ve been very big with what we call BOPIS — buy online and pickup in store,” she added.

Lisa Musch, of Toledo, normally shops in-store on Black Friday and she was doing so again this year, starting out at 6 a.m. and stopping at Target, Lowes, Harbor Freight, Joann Fabric and Crafts, and J.C. Penney. But she also did something a little different on Thursday.

“I normally do not shop online but this year I did with Walmart,” she said. “I didn’t want to face all those people at Walmart.”

Though she would have preferred not to drive around Toledo tracking down specific gifts on a wish list, Mrs. Musch said there’s a good reason to do so.

“The problem is if you wait ‘til the day after, you may not find what you want to buy,” she said.