Stores use bold advertising to lure customers to bold sales on Black Friday.
Extensive advertising and 25 percent to 50 percent savings on full price and sale items brought in high numbers at The Fashion Centre at Pentagon City on Friday, November 26.
The official start to the holiday shopping season, Black Friday is expected to generate good, but not great sales figures this year.
Shoppers are expected to spend an average of $688.87 during the holidays, up $7.04 from last year, according to the National Retail Federation, a Washington, D.C.-based trade association.
Although shoppers may not be spending significantly more, early signs point to bigger crowds at many stores across the country. If the scene at Pentagon City mall this morning is any indication, retailers will make up for less money spent, with greater numbers spending.
“It definitely seems busier than last year,” said Brian Kear, guest services manager at Pentagon City mall. “There wasn’t a line at the door, but people started pouring in as soon as the mall opened.” Kear works from 5:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on Black Friday and said that the peak time is usually around 8:00 a.m.
With three levels, plus a food court, Pentagon City mall has over 170 stores and restaurants in 990,000 square feet.
Multiple laps around the three levels of the mall revealed that certain stores were much busier than others.
Ann Taylor, Victoria’s Secret, American Eagle, Express and other large corporate retailers offered 30, 40, and even 50 percent off the “entire store.” The highest concentrations of shoppers were in stores that offered discounts on everything.
Time limits on these sales heightened the need for shoppers to spend fast or miss out.
GAP offered 50 percent off of everything in the store until 10:00 a.m. Banana Republic and Express ended 40 percent off “your entire purchase” at noon. Lines snaked around these stores throughout the morning, but grew rapidly in the last 30 minutes of the sale.
One GAP customer said that she started shopping on Black Friday in recent years and felt able to spend a little more money this year than last because her husband is gainfully employed again.
Ann Taylor offered 40 percent off “your entire purchase” through noon and then extended the sale for all stores through the end of the day.
“We’re a higher-end brand, so when customers see that they can get 40 percent off their entire purchase, nearly half off, they tend to buy more,” said Paris Jones, a sales associate at Ann Taylor. “On a normal day our goal is $20,000; today our goal is $60,000.”
When asked if she thought the store would reach its $60,000 sales goal, Jones said yes without hesitation.
Signs and greeters at store entrances were followed by printed sales cards or presentations of sample freebies. Customers knew exactly what they were getting before they walked in, before they checked out and as they left the store.
You get what you advertise
Many knew what to expect before they arrived at the mall. Promotional advertisements were rolled out up to 11 days ago.
Known as “Christmas creep,” retailers are trying to grab and hold the attention of shoppers earlier and longer.
Ads, used to build momentum and excitement as well as remind customers that this store or that has the biggest and best deals, are often the reason customers decide to visit a store at all.
With items on sale in practically every department through close of business plus an in-store savings pass and free shipping, a steady flow of customers streamed into Macy’s all morning. Other stores such as Steve Madden had customers “on-and-off traffic,” said Aida, a sales associate.
“It’s been a good day so far,” said Senait, a Macy’s employee working in the Impulse department. “Last year it wasn’t busy at all; anything is better than that.”
If it wasn’t obvious that a retailer was selling items at a discount, customers didn’t look twice.
J.Crew, Nine West, and The Limited, among others, were practically empty. These stores didn’t appear to be offering discounts on much, if anything. Shoppers, expecting to be wooed, chose to give business to retailers that went to greater lengths to entice them.
A big weekend ahead
Approximately 138 million people are expected to hit stores over the Black Friday weekend, 60 million more than last year. Holiday sales are predicted to increase 2.3 percent to $447.1 billion this year.
In 2009, sales increased only 0.4 percent during the holiday season and declined 3.9 percent in 2008.
As a bellwether of the overall health of the economy, holiday sales will be watched closely.