NEW YORK – Some shoppers were surprised at how little madness there was on Black Friday.
At a Walmart in Toledo, Ohio, shopping ads left behind from the night before littered the mostly empty parking lot Friday morning. Those who were out found plenty of parking spaces closer to the store than they would most weekend mornings. Inside, less than a dozen shoppers stood in line at a handful of the 22 cash register lanes that were open.
Celina Ramsey, 24, of Toledo, thought maybe she had missed all of the deals because there were so few people around. She found some sales, but less than she expected. Rose Roberts of Toledo said she didn’t see any of the craziness and it made it nicer.
At a shopping complex in Miami, people were easily finding parking and picking up items or heading straight to the cashiers without having to wait in line like it was a regular weekday. Annette Peluffo said she doesn’t usually do Black Friday, but it was quiet and the lines weren’t bad.
Chuck Boyd said he and his son arrived at 4 a.m. to be among the first several people in line at Best Buy in Nashville, Tennessee, to get one each of about 14 “doorbuster” deals on a 55-inch Toshiba smart TV for $280, a $220 savings.
The store was open on Thanksgiving, closed overnight and reopened at 8 a.m. Friday to a few dozen people in line awaiting additional early-bird specials.
Boyd said he never goes out for Black Friday deals and prefers online shopping. But his son wanted a TV for his apartment at school, so Boyd came along to get one too.
Hot toys were hard to find in stores. That’s according to Jim Silver, editor-in-chief of toy review website TTPM.
Among the sold-out ones, Silver says: Fingerlings robotic monkeys; Luvabella moving dolls; and Pikmi Pops and LOL Surprise Big Surprise, both of which hide dolls or small stuffed animals in plastic balls that are wrapped in several layers of packaging.
Silver, who visited Toys R Us, Walmart, Target and other stores on Thanksgiving and Black Friday near Carle Place, New York, says there were fewer people in stores than years past.
“It’s easier to go online” to shop for toys, Silver says, “than just run from store to store and not find it.”
Macy’s CEO Jeff Gennette says that customer counts are higher and business was better in the North and Northeast even with fewer promotions from a year ago. Last year, Macy’s had a lot of unsold merchandise from the third quarter that needed to be liquidated.
He said deals on exclusive fashions, perfume sets and gadgets helped drive attention. And cold weather helped fuel sales of items like coats and boots. He predicts that Macy’s will sell more than a million cold-weather items on Thursday and Friday combined.
At malls operated by CBL Properties, giveaway bags with store gift cards for the first 300 people in the doors at 6 a.m. were gone in 10 minutes, says CEO Stephen Lebovitz, about the same as last year.
The busiest stores were Victoria’s Secret, Pink and Bath & Body Works, all owned by L Brands Inc., likely because of the deals they were offering, says Lebovitz. Victoria’s Secret, for example, gave away sequined tote bags for those that spent $75 at the lingerie seller.
CBL, which owns and manages about 119 different types of shopping properties, kept its malls closed on Thanksgiving Day to build excitement for Black Friday, Lebovitz says. He called it a strong start.
After sweet potato pie, more people picked up their smartphones to shop this year.
Amazon says orders through its mobile app on Thanksgiving Day were up more than 50 percent from a year ago.
Adobe Analytics, the research arm of software maker Adobe, says 46 percent of online store-site visits came from a smartphone on the holiday. And they weren’t just browsing – about 29 percent of revenue came from smartphones, Adobe says.
Early numbers show people are shopping on their phones for Black Friday deals, too. By 10 a.m. Eastern time, nearly 51 percent of visits to retailer’s websites were through a smartphone, Adobe says.
“Retailers know this is where the audience is now and are delivering better experiences,” says Mickey Mericle, Adobe’s vice president of marketing and customer insights.
Mall operator Taubman Centers says there seemed to be more families and fewer teens shopping for Thanksgiving night.
Chief Operating Officer Bill Taubman says the company reported strong sales in women’s and teen clothing, footwear and electronics on Thanksgiving night. At Westfarms mall in Connecticut, 300 people were in line for JC Penney’s 2 p.m. opening.
Taubman says he thinks traffic will be up more than sales as people want to be out. Taubman said the question is whether shoppers will find what they need as more stores take merchandise from the floor to send directly to online shoppers.
In France, an anti-Black Friday movement has emerged among e-commerce sites that oppose consumerism.
A French association called Zero Waste France got thousands of entrepreneurs and businesses nationwide to sign up to a Black Friday boycott via an online petition called “Count me out on Black Friday.”
French furniture outlet Camif closed its website for 24 hours Friday in protest over the imported American big-spend day – and invited internet users to give to nonprofits all day instead.
Camif’s Product Chief Frederic Emery called Black Friday “an example that’s to responsible consumerism” and said “what’s more it is not part of French culture.”
Over the last seven years, Black Friday has slowly crept into the country on the day after Thanksgiving even though it’s not celebrated in France.
At a shopping complex in Miami, Georgina Martinez came out of a Target empty-handed, saying she couldn’t find good deals on toy cars and dolls she buys in bulk to send for Christmas donations in her native Dominican Republic.
She said the toys were either too modern or too expensive to buy in bulk. She doesn’t buy online because she likes to see the quality of the toys in person but is afraid she may have missed out on early specials on websites by waiting until Black Friday to hit the stores.
Martinez was planning to head to Toys R Us, Walmart and a shopping mall to see if she had more luck.
Thirty-two-year-old Nanci Custer and her mother-in-law, Jeanne Custer, got an early start to their shopping Friday so they could make the 25-mile trip from Pendleton, Indiana, to downtown Indianapolis and hit the stores at Circle Centre Mall.
They left their homes about 6:30 a.m. for their Black Friday shopping tradition of visiting the downtown mall, which they said they like because it lacks the throngs of shoppers who pack other Indianapolis-area malls.
The women spent most of their morning at the mall’s multi-level Carson’s store, where Nanci Custer said she spent just $67 buying gifts, mostly clothes, for six relatives.
Her mother-in-law’s finds included an air-powered deep fryer, what she called “a no-guilt fryer” that normally costs $130 but which she got for $80, and a new comforter.
The Mall of America in Minnesota says that 2,500 people were in line at the 5 a.m. opening Friday, in line with a year ago. Shoppers started queuing up as early as 5:45 p.m. on Thanksgiving.
Jill Renslow, Mall of America’s executive vice president of business development, said that stores like Nordstrom, Macy’s and Best Buy were crowded. She said the items that caught shoppers’ attention included voice-activated devices like Amazon Echo, nostalgic toys, clothing and shoes.
Like other shopping centers, the mall has been fighting online buying by integrating technology with the shopping experience. Shoppers can now reserve a premium parking space on an app before heading to the mall. Renslow says more than 60 of the 500-plus stores now allow shoppers to order online and pick up the goods at the mall. That’s a big increase from a year ago.