When Kathleen Zogby rose from her seat in the King of Prussia Mall a few minutes past 6 a.m., the glittery wording on her shirt caught the light: Black Friday Queen.
Her plan was straightforward and undeterred by a global pandemic: Start Black Friday as early as possible with coffee and breakfast from Starbucks, then trek through the 2.9 million square-foot mall with her granddaughters to shop for deals. No need to worry if they didn’t get to all the stores they wanted by the end of the day — they’d be back on Saturday and Sunday, too, before they went home.
“It’s our bonding time and we didn’t want to give that up,” said Zogby, 74 of Harrisburg.
During a pandemic, the turnout was sparser than normal, Zogby said, equipped with face shields, single-use gloves, and hand sanitizer and surrounded by her granddaughters Gillian Carney, 28, and Samantha Tinglof, 35. “This is way less,” said Carney, of Baltimore, Md. “Normally, the line [to get in] is sort of wrapped outside the door.”
Black Friday, the traditional busiest shopping day of the year, came off more peacefully this year as public health officials advised households to stay at home as much as possible, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention categorized shopping in crowded stores as a “higher risk” activity. A growing number of U.S. consumers has also declined to wake up before the sun, wait in the cold, and push through crowds to capitalize on deep discounts. Online shopping also has continued to rise this holiday season as more people stayed at home to make their purchases, retail analysts said.
About 75 percent of people said they would do some of their holiday shopping online this year compared to 65% last year, according to a survey of 1,500 people from the global professional services firm Accenture. An estimated 43% of the respondents said they would do all their shopping online. The firm noted in another report that more consumers were buying more goods from local stores.
The National Retail Federation predicted there would be a holiday sale spike of as much as 5.2%, or $766.7 billion, from last year. Online shopping was projected to grow between 20% to 30%, or $202.5 billion to $218.4 billion, a substantial increase from $168.7 billion last year.
The normal scrum of holiday shoppers in King of Prussia had thinned noticeably, though Black Friday heavy-hitters such as Lululemon, Aerie, and American Eagle Outfitters, drew a crowd of mostly younger female customers.
Recent earnings reports showed net revenue for Lululemon, the sporty-chic apparel chain, was $902.9 million by the end of its second quarter in early August, a 2% increase from the same time last year.
American Eagle Outfitters, parent company of the street wear apparel retailer American Eagle and the underwear and loungewear retailer Aerie, reported net revenue of $1.07 billion by the end of October, a $35 million decrease from close to the same time last year.
Revenue for American Eagle fell by 11%, according to the company’s third-quarter results, but revenue for Aerie — long popular among girls and women for including a more diverse range of models and promoting self-love — rose 34%, placing the company in a comfortable position to face the rest of the holiday season.
“After all they’ve been through, we think there’s going to be a psychological factor that they owe it to themselves and their families to have a better-than-normal holiday,” Jack Kleinhenz, chief economist at the National Retail Federation, said at the time the group released its sales predictions for the holiday season. “There are risks to the economy if the virus continues to spread, but as long as consumers remain confident and upbeat, they will spend for the holiday season.”
In New Jersey, Raeqwan Lassiter, 24, intended to make this holiday season a good one.
“I got my kids random dolls, I bought some things for a few little cousins also, and I bought a game system for the household,” he said, taking a shopping break around 7:30 a.m. after arriving at the Cherry Hill Mall in New Jersey at 6 a.m.
He hadn’t gone Black Friday shopping last year, he said, so he was making up for it this year.
“When I grew up, my aunts and them used to always go, and I just loved to go with them,” he said, “and I feel like this is just part of the holiday spirit.”
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