Make us your home page
Instagram

Throngs of people face cold, long lines for Black Friday deals

Tempted by tantalizing discounts, hundreds of thousands of frugal shoppers came out of their shells on Black Friday to mob Tampa Bay malls and find discounts from midnight until dusk.

Whether the trend holds up, boosting discretionary spending over last year's dismal figures, remains the next critical measure of whether the recession is over and recovery is taking root.

Friday's showing is just the first step, a fact retailers know well. A good Black Friday a year ago was followed by one of the retail industry's worst holiday performances ever.

While figures on what shoppers spent won't be available for a few days, an abundance of signs showed more Tampa Bay shoppers were out on Friday, the traditional start to the Christmas holiday season.

More than 600 shoppers lined up outside a St. Petersburg Toys "R" Us for the chain's earliest ever opening at midnight. In minutes they snapped up all 100 hard-to-find Zhu Zhu electronic hamsters, but eight hours later checkout lines still snaked around the jammed store. At Prime Outlets at Ellenton, where Black Friday traffic typically backs up a half-mile on Interstate 75, shoppers were confronted with a 2-mile wait at 1 a.m.

"We've been crazy busy," said Gynnifer Burnett, district manager for 12 Old Navy stores in the bay area. "We had 200 people lined up at every store when we opened at 3 a.m."

"Both traffic and business were up in 11 malls we manage that we surveyed in late morning including International Plaza" in Tampa, said Karen MacDonald, spokeswoman for Taubman Centers Inc. "A lot of shoppers also are buying for themselves, which we did not see last year."

Retailers turned up the promotional volume, but veteran Black Friday bargain hunters proved to be a demanding crowd.

Bundled in a blanket and shivering in a 4 a.m. chill, Kimberly Grimes pondered if it had been worth spending all night in line to be among the first 100 holiday bargain hunters at Best Buy.

"The deal I'm getting on a camera is good, but I found a cheaper iPod touch at Amazon.com before we left home," said the Seminole mother of three who faced five hours of mall shopping with her family, some of whom were asleep in the car. "Right now, I'm just cold and tired."

Across the street at Sears, Kiwanis Baines, a Jamerson Elementary School teacher, didn't hesitate.

"I got a $56 jacket for $12," she said. "That's a good price."

"I bought pajamas for $3 at Walmart, but it took an hour wait to pay," said Jackie Leonard, a Largo day care worker.

"The deals are not as good as last year," said Heidi Greenslade, a Tampa schoolteacher who hit two malls, a Target and a Walmart before 9:30 a.m. "We're watching our money more this year, so 30 to 40 percent off for this early day isn't good enough."

With doorbuster deals good only a few hours or available only in limited quantities, more retailers than ever shifted the start of the day earlier into the wee hours. So mobs of shoppers were able to rove from one store to the next through the night, comparison shop, then cherry pick.

Confronted with forecasts of weak holiday spending, stores tried some new come-ons to get shoppers out and spending. Tilly's handed $10 to $150 gift cards to the first 75 shoppers for its 5 a.m. opening. Neiman Marcus offered a $50 gift card for a $100 purchase. Department stores that last year came up with the confusing "take another 25 percent off 70 percent off clearance" goods (which really translates to 83 percent off overall) this year changed the math to "take another "40 percent" off 70 percent.

Sears at Tyrone Square Mall sold out a $579 front loading Kenmore washer/dryer set to the people at the front of the line an hour before the store even opened at 4 a.m. Sears had only four on hand, routing deal hunters to Apsco Appliances, which had a similar set priced the same at $600 below list price.

"We have four times the TV sets on hand that were advertised in limited quantities, so we plan to keep the promotional sale momentum up through the weekend," Marcos Avellan, Sears store manager, said as people lined 10 deep at five registers and bought discounted sets.

Retailers this year are extending many deals through the weekend and adding new ones. They've also made an effort to stick to practical basics. Walmart had $2 to $10 DVDs, a 32-inch HDTV for $248 and a $78 Blu-Ray DVD player. Hundreds of toys were priced at $10 or less. Old Navy's "Gobblepalooza" sale was dominated by $5 T-shirts and $15 jeans.

The online shopping industry is heavily promoting Monday as Cyber Monday, which will likely be the third biggest online sales day of the year, thanks to discounts to stimulate what has been flat demand.

Mark Albright can be reached at albright@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8252.

Throngs of people face cold, long lines for Black Friday deals 11/27/09 [Last modified: Friday, November 27, 2009 10:56pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Study: Tampa Bay a top market for homebuyers on the move

    Real Estate

    The Tampa Bay area is among the top markets for homebuyers who are likely to move in the next few months, ATTOM Data Solutions says.

    The Tampa Bay area is among the top markets for homebuyers who are likely to move in the next few months, a survey found.
[Associated Press file photo]
  2. Ousted to political Siberia by Corcoran, Kathleen Peters sets sights on Pinellas Commission

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — The perks of power in Tallahassee are a coveted chairmanship, a Capitol office in a prime location and a prominent seat on the House floor. Now Rep. Kathleen Peters has lost all three, but here's the twist: Her trip to "Siberia" might actually help her reach the next step on the Tampa Bay political …

    Rep. Kathleen Peters, R-South Pasadena, has been relegated to the back row in the State House chamber, moved to a fouth floor office and stripped of her job as chairwoman of a House subcommittee after a series of disagreements with House Speaker Richard Corcoran. [SCOTT KEELER | Tampa Bay Times]
  3. UPS relocates express operations from St. Pete-Clearwater to TIA

    Airlines

    TAMPA — United Parcel Service Inc. is switching airports for its express air operations. Beginning in October, UPS will relocate from St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport to Tampa International Airport.

    Beginning in October, UPS will move from St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport to Tampa International Airport. [Associated Press file photo]

  4. Richard Corcoran takes aim at public financing of campaigns

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes, may not be running for governor — not yet anyway — but his latest idea will get the attention of those who are.

    House Speaker Richard Corcoran wants the Constitu?tion Revision Commis?sion to ask voters to repeal the state’s system of partial financing of statewide elections.
  5. Related Group breaks ground on complex at old Tampa Tribune site

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — When Miami developer Jorge Perez first eyed a 4.2-acre tract on the west bank of the Hillsborough River two years ago, people asked him if he wouldn't prefer to build on the opposite side closer to the downtown core.

    No way.

    From left, Related Group executive associate Arturo Penaa, Jorge Perez, center, founder and CEO of the Related Group, Mayor Bob Buckhorn and Steve Patterson, the President of Related Development dig their shovels  during the groundbreaking ceremony of the 400 unit Riverwalk Manor apartment complex on site of the old Tampa Tribune building on Wednesday. [OCTAVIO JONES | Times]