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Black Friday - Will Retailers Cash Out?


Credit: antwerpenR

Above: Sale!


George Whalin founder, Retail Management Consultants of San Marcos


George Whalin, founder of Retail Management Consultants of San Marcos talks about the holiday shopping outlook.

Evening Edition airs weekdays at 5 PM and 6:30 PM on KPBS TV.

Midnight openings for an extra long Black Friday saw brisk business today, but might not have significantly boosted the total number of shoppers, according to one analyst.

Instead the early hours might have simply shifted when the most avid customers hit the stores.

Target, Best Buy, Macy's and Kohl's stores opened at midnight, their earliest openings. Company executives said they opened earlier because customers wanted to have the option of beginning their searches for short-lived bargains relatively soon after eating their Thanksgiving meals instead having to wake up early Friday and because of competition for other retail chains.

"My guess is that it's just a shift," said Jackie Fernandez, a retail partner with Deloitte, a financial advisory firm, which released a report last month predicting a modest 2 percent-3 percent increase in sales for Black Friday.

"That's just enough to about cover inflation for this year. Consumers are still really cautious, especially here in Southern California. They're cautions about jobs, gas prices, and consumer savings is up at a historic high."

However, there could be a positive shift in the type of Christmas shopping consumers do this year, Fernandez said.

"I think there is a bit of pent up spending that needs to happen on basic needs," Fernandez said. "We might see clothing become the No. 1 gift, which is unusual. Gift cards have been No. 1 for a couple of years,"

Glendale Galleria Marketing Director Shoshana Puccia said that mall had a safe, fruitful early start to Black Friday. Macy's, Target and 70 of 250 other mall stores opened at midnight, with the rest opening at 5 a.m. She estimated the mall was filled with nearly 15,000 customers shortly after the early opening.

Puccia attributed the mall's lack of incidents to a close relationship with the Glendale Police Department and repeated meetings with store owners, security and neighboring businesses about plans for Black Friday. She also said mall management ensured that every entrance was open at midnight, despite that not all of the mall's stores were open.

"So far, because of the strong showing, everyone is pretty happy," Puccia said. "Macy's told us they anticipate they will do this again next year. Target did not release a lot of information, but the general manager was happy."

While there was calm at the Glendale Galleria, shopping competition turned violent Thanksgiving night at a Porter Ranch Walmart when a woman armed with pepper spray sprayed on other customers, causing minor injuries to 20 people.

The assailant then fled the scene and Los Angeles police were searching today for the suspect.

Adbusters, the Vancouver, British Columbia-based foundation which conceived the Occupy Wall Street protest, is making Black Friday the start of its "Occupy Xmas" campaign, seeking "to put the brakes on rapid consumerism for 24 hours."

Adbusters is calling for "flash mobs, consumer fasts and mall sit-ins" in an attempt to "launch an all-out offensive to unset the corporate kings on the holiday throne."

Black Friday also is Adbusters 20th annual Buy Nothing Day.

However, the anti-Black Friday efforts are predicted to have little impact.

Black Friday is forecast to be the year's biggest shopping day for the eighth consecutive year, according to ShopperTrak, the largest traffic measuring company.

A survey found that more people plan to shop on Black Friday than either of the past two years. According to the poll conducted for the International Council of Shopping Centers, a shopping center trade association, and the investment banking firm Goldman Sachs, 34 percent of consumers questioned said they planned to shop on Black Friday, compared to 31 percent in 2010 and 26 percent in 2009.

"In addition to buying gifts, consumers overwhelmingly indicated that they would be looking for bargains on Black Friday for themselves as well," said Michael P. Niemira, the council's chief economist and director of research.

The day after Thanksgiving has become known as Black Friday as it begins the Christmas shopping season where retailers achieve a profit for the year after operating at a break-even point or loss. It is also a reference to the accounting practice of using black ink, or being "in the black" to denote profits.

It is a day known for customers lining up outside stores and shopping centers in the cold -- even camping for several days -- awaiting earlier-than- usual opening times to take advantage of sale prices, some in effect for just a few hours.

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