Local News

Savings Attract Holiday Shoppers at Triangle Stores

Posted November 24, 2006 9:28 a.m. EST
Updated November 24, 2006 7:09 p.m. EST

All year long, hard-core shoppers look forward to Black Friday, when retailers open their doors to crowds looking for all the best deals, discounts and must-haves they can find.

The day after Thanksgiving has been cemented into American culture as an annual retail ritual that continues to attract more and more people willing to give up a good night's sleep for deep discounts and "door buster" offers.

Many retailers in the Triangle and across the nation were open by 8 a.m., and some had opened as early as 5 a.m.

Outside the Best Buy in Durham, shoppers started lining up as early as 9 a.m. Thursday. The line stretched to more than 400 people when the store opened Friday.

"This is probably like my sixth or seventh year coming out here," said shopper Donna Murphy.

In Garner, shoppers began lining up at a Best Buy at 2:30 p.m. By Friday morning, more people were in line than the store could hold. Shoppers were only being allowed to enter the store when others left.

In other areas, shopping began at midnight. In Smithfield, for example, 54 stores at Carolina Premium Outlets opened at midnight.

Enduring the cold weather, shoppers said, is worth the savings.

"You miss some of the best deals if you stay at home in the bed," said shopper Nikkia Barnette. "So, you come out, take the chances and save a little bit of money."

Although Black Friday officially starts holiday shopping, it's generally no longer the busiest day of the season. That honor now falls to the last Saturday before Christmas. But stores see Black Friday as setting an important tone for the overall season: What consumers see that day influences where they will shop for the rest of the season.

Shoppers at big malls like Crabtree Valley Mall are expected to add to $457 billion in sales nationwide this year. But across Raleigh at Cameron Village, Black Friday is the start of something special for shops like the Cat Banjo

"It's when a lot of people find the store for the first time," said Cat Banjo owner Debbi Cochran. "And they come in and they're kind of of customers after that."

Small businesses will take in as much as 30 percent of their yearly revenue in the next five weekends. Shopper George Nowak and his son don't like the big box malls. They prefer the mom-and-pop shops in Cameron Village.

"That's why were here, because they have more unique stores," said Nowak.

Last year, total Black Friday sales dipped 0.9 percent from the year before to $8 billion, dampened by deep discounting, according to Shopper Trak RCT Corp., which tracks total sales at more than 45,000 mall-based retail outlets. For the whole Thanksgiving weekend, total sales rose just 0.4 percent to $16.8 billion.

Still, last year merchants ended up meeting their holiday sales projections, helped by a last-minute buying surge and post-Christmas shopping.

This year, analysts expect robust holiday sales gains for the overall retail industry, though the pace is expected to be slower than a year ago. The National Retail Federation projects a 5 percent gain in total holiday sales for the November-December period, less than the 6.1 percent rise in the year-ago period.

Meanwhile, the International Council of Shopping Centers estimates sales at stores open at least a year will rise 3 percent in the November-December period, less than last year's 3.6 percent increase.