Despite projections that Thanksgiving Day hours and online shopping could cut into Black Friday sales, local retailers said they had a mostly steady stream of customers throughout the highly anticipated shopping day.
“It’s busy — it’s been busy all night,” San Luis Obispo Best Buy store manager Mathew Jordan said Friday morning, noting that the store was open Thursday from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m., before reopening again Friday at 8 a.m. Jordan said he was too busy to comment beyond that because of the number of customers in the store.
The situation was similar at Wal-Mart in Paso Robles on Friday morning.
“We are busy, very busy,” store manager Mike Reeves said. “This is certainly the busiest I’ve ever seen it at a Wal-Mart store at this time.”
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In recent years, as more major retailers have expanded their holiday shopping hours into Thanksgiving and begun to offer their once-exclusive in-store deals online, many have speculated that Black Friday may become a thing of the past.
“Black Friday is quickly losing its meaning on many fronts,” Neil Stern, senior partner for retail consulting firm McMillanDoolittle, told the Chicago Tribune last week. “Yes, there will be deals and door busters Friday morning, but they are really becoming an antiquated concept.”
Some stores — like Barnes and Noble, Costco, Home Goods, Marshall’s and T.J. Maxx — eschewed opening on Thanksgiving, to give their employees time off to spend with family.
Despite dire predictions, some local retailers said they saw more shoppers than in previous years, on both Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday, though there were some lulls in activity.
135.8 millionHow many people the National Retail Federation expects will shop between Thursday and Sunday this year
Wal-Mart opened for its normal operating hours Thursday, from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., with the highest influx of shoppers about 3 p.m., Reeves said.
“A lot of people were gravitating in earlier than normal, which was surprising,” he said. “A lot of families with children were coming in.”
A long line formed at the store’s doors Friday morning, as well, Reeves said, which prompted him to open the store before its scheduled time of 7 a.m.
“I figured, ‘Hey, they want those early deals, so why not?’” he said.
Reeves said he couldn’t estimate how many customers shopped at the store Thursday and Friday — “It’s a lot,” he said, noting that the retail chain was projecting sales to increase this year across all its stores, in part because of a push to offer more online deals for those shoppers who might not want to shop in-store on Thanksgiving or Black Friday.
Target in San Luis Obispo opened at 6 p.m. Thursday to a line of between 150 and 200 people waiting outside, store team leader Nicole Nathanson said.
By 8:30 a.m. Friday, the number of shoppers at Target had fallen, although Nathanson said she expected crowds to pick up again throughout the day as families with younger children made the trek out to shop.
“Our guest traffic died down at about 12 a.m., but the Black Friday folks that wanted to come in after their turkey dinners came in,” she said. “Right now it’ll be pretty slow, but we are expecting to pick up about 10:30 a.m. or 11 a.m.”
Bryan and Lisa Buckey of Arroyo Grande were shopping at Target with Lisa’s mother, Rosa Jimenez, of Los Angeles at 8:30 a.m., and were surprised at how few customers were in the aisles.
“She’s shocked that it’s empty here,” Lisa Buckey said as she motioned to her mother. “She was like, ‘What’s wrong? Why is it empty here?’ ”
“But it’s starting to fill up now,” Bryan Buckey added.
The Buckeys and Jimenez were at Target to shop for Christmas gifts for their nieces and nephews, as well as possibly some supplies for the couple’s baby, which is due on Tuesday.
“Gotta get some last-minute shopping in,” Lisa Buckey said.
We’ve always avoided it in the past, but we stopped by because we heard it was probably not too crazy.
Jason Warren, San Luis Obispo
Caitlin Ward and Jason Warren, both of San Luis Obispo, were at Best Buy on Friday morning to buy a new TV.
It was the first time the pair had ever shopped on a Black Friday, they said, because they thought big crowds from Thanksgiving would have died down, and the store would be quiet.
“We’ve always avoided it in the past, but we stopped by because we heard it was probably not too crazy,” Warren said.
Once inside, it was busier than expected, though still manageable, they said. They left with a 48-inch Insignia television they purchased for $299, before tax.
Thursday night shopping was a little more frantic, according to Brittani Giangrande of Arroyo Grande.
Giangrande said she and a friend went shopping in Santa Maria at about 6:30 p.m. Thursday to find a game for her friend’s nephew, as well as some other Christmas gifts. The pair shopped at Toys R Us, Target and the Santa Maria Town Center, she said, though they avoided Wal-Mart and Best Buy because of the number of people they saw at those stores.
“Toys R Us was crazy,” she said. “We were just looking for one game, and everything was practically sold out. They had workers in every aisle and had to make lanes to control the crowd. And Target was even worse. The line for checkout wrapped around the entire store like a snake, zigzagging in between aisles.”
Giangrande said while shopping at the Santa Maria Target, the most common item in the shopping carts seemed to be TVs.
TVs and other electronics were the most popular on-sale items at most of the big-box stores across the county.
San Luis Obispo Best Buy store manager Jordan said TVs and streaming devices like Rokus were their biggest-selling items Thursday and Friday.
Paso Robles Wal-Mart store manager Reeves said the store sold out of 32-inch Roku-equipped TVs by Friday morning, as well as a large portion of the store’s computers and FitBits.
At Target in San Luis Obispo, store manager Nathanson said the store sold out of 55-inch 1080p Westinghouse TVs Thursday night, as well as other electronics such as Kuerig coffee makers and Dyson vacuums, and somewhat surprising items like cutlery sets and some 40 percent-off clothing.
Apple products weren’t selling as well as expected, however, Nathanson said.
$630.5 billionHow much United States shoppers are expected to spend on holiday shopping this year, according to the National Retail Federation
“Our Apple cage at the front of the store, I thought would be sold out,” she said. “But I guess our client here, if they are going to come in for an iPad, they aren’t going to come in on Black Friday. That was a little bit of a shock too, though.”
In the toy sector, Star Wars-themed products were expected to be popular this year, as the release of the highly-anticipated new installment of the popular franchise looms closer, and peak Star Wars mania reaches its height.
Nathanson said Target didn’t see as much of a fervor for Star Wars toys as she would have thought — an exclusive $10 three-foot plush teddy bear and a $44 giant jumbling towers set (similar to Jenga) sold better, she said.
Wal-Mart saw more sales of Star Wars merchandise, according to Reeves, including its Lego Star Wars kits and Stormtrooper action figures.
“Toys are always congested at this time,” Reeves said. “Toys, DVDs and electronics — those are always the busiest areas of the store on Black Friday.”
The Chicago Tribune contributed to this report
Local retailers celebrate Small Business Saturday with treats, special offers
While Black Friday is typically dominated by large big-box stores that can offer extreme discounts on popular items, Small Business Saturday encourages customers to “shop local” and support smaller, independent retailers.
Several retailers throughout San Luis Obispo County participate in Small Business Saturday, which always takes place the Saturday after Thanksgiving, and usually offer free treats for shoppers on that day.
“Our community has a long tradition of buying local, whether that be food, wine and beer or retail,” said Molly Kern, San Luis Obispo Chamber of Commerce director of communications. “Small businesses make up a large portion of our chamber; over 80 percent of our members have 20 or fewer employees. We encourage people to support local businesses every day — including Small Business Saturday.”
The San Luis Obispo Downtown Association is also promoting the day with a #ShopSmall selfie campaign, asking shoppers to post pictures on social media of them at their favorite local businesses, and tag them with #ShopSmall #DowntownAssociation. SLO Transit will offer free bus service all day on Saturday in honor of Small Business Saturday.
The Paso Robles Chamber of Commerce is also offering 33 percent of its “Love Our Locals” discount cards when purchased Saturday at the Visitor’s Center at 1225 Park St.
For a full list of participating stores, visit shopsmallnow.americanexpress.com (click “Continue” to view map of participating stores without logging in).