Saturday, November 25, 2006

Black as night?

A huge Black Friday according to this report in the Rocky Mountain News:

U.S. retailers opened to "huge" numbers of shoppers as they offered early-bird specials and staged stunts to kick off the holiday shopping season today.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world’s largest retailer, opened at 5 a.m. with 42-inch plasma TVs for under $1,000 and cashmere sweaters for $29 for the first six hours. Target Corp. hired magician David Blaine to escape from shackles while dangling five stories over New York’s Times Square to draw attention to a two-day sale starting today.

The longer hours and price cuts may help retailers raise holiday sales 5 percent this year to $457 billion, according to the National Retail Federation. The season starts the day after Thanksgiving, called Black Friday because at one time it was considered the day retailers turned profitable for the year. It will probably be the second-biggest shopping day this year.

"It is a huge day for traffic," NRF President Tracy Mullin said in a statement today. Retailers are "encouraged by the amount of excitement and traffic that their Black Friday promotions have generated."

Locally, it was a good day too. Members of the editorial staff that came in later in the day reported good-size crowds at the stops they'd made in the morning but nothing too crazy. We reported the local shopping as a 'swarm':

For longtime store employees and veteran Black Friday shoppers, the crowds at local retail stores were expected.

For new Santa Maria Sears shoe sales employee Isaac Tobias, however, the early Friday morning stampede left him “shocked.”

“Actually, people were running through the store, trying to get what they needed to get,” said a wide-eyed Tobias several hours after the rush subsided. "I've been a salesman for six years, but I've never seen anything like that,” he said.

Aside from lines when Sears opened at 5 a.m., shoppers and employees there reported an apparent increase in shoppers from last year but fairly typical of Black Friday - a term given to the Friday after Thanksgiving by retailers whose sales that day will put them “in the black” for the year.

I contemplated hitting a few of my larger retail advertisers in town to gauge how things were going there but a surprise lunchtime visit from my in-laws who drove up for a mini shopping-spree of their own put the kibosh on that. And when lunch was over, it was back to Operation Paperwork Reduction for the rest of the afternoon.

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