The prevailing expectations going into Black Friday a week ago were for slightly better sales than last year. That's held up for the most part, to varying degrees, across the midstate.
From malls and outlets to small businesses, managers and employees felt spending and traffic were up to maybe a bit down at worst.
That's despite the über-early competition from many big-box retailers who didn't even let the turkey cool before throwing open their doors, as well as an economy that remains a cooling force against consumers being free-wheeling with their money.
Here's a look at how Black Friday went for several area retailers.
Chuck Simmons, general manager, Tanger Outlets Hershey, Dauphin County: As of my 8 a.m. (Friday), traffic count, I was up in automobiles over last year. I think the spend was relatively where we thought it would be. I would say that, for the most part, sales would be — and it's a word I've used a few times — but they were definitely robust. It was so refreshing.
Everyone was in such a wonderful mood. We had no issues to speak of. Usually you wind up with some issues. … We had none of that last night, it was an absolute pleasure.
On the business side of things, I would say that overall the trend was flat to up a (bit). And in this economy, that's a blessing.
There were a few stores that did not get the results they had expected (as of Friday morning). However, they didn't miss what they were expecting by very much.
We chose to open at 10 p.m. Thursday. We figured 10 is enough of a jumpstart for holiday shopping. We wanted to have some time so that our store employees can spend with their families. We have some (stores) in what I call sport apparel — without being able to mention any stores by name — but sport apparel did very well.
And I will say this, I truly believe that this particular season as opposed to last season saw more gift purchases (compared with) sales for one's self. This year, and I think a lot of the retailers were noticing that as well, that people were now looking at gift lists more so than want lists.
Anastasia Paszkiewicz, marketing director, Capital City Mall, Cumberland County: I think it was better than what we expected. Concern is not the right word, but we were worried because Toys R Us was no longer in the parking lot (after relocating to the Carlisle Pike). But we didn't open the doors until midnight, and we had a crowd of people waiting to come in the doors at 11:30 p.m. — a half-hour before we opened. We were pleasantly surprised. In conversations with merchants throughout the morning, everybody was really pleased.
At about 3 a.m., we kind of trickled off a bit, but by 6 a.m. it was (similar to) 8 o'clock on a weekend or something like that. And it's been steady for the rest of the day. People who get here early, they're always interested in the door busters.
Laura Henry, organizer of retail operations, Kitchen Kettle Village, Lancaster County: We opened at 9 a.m. (Friday). We didn't open any earlier than usual, but we are open late, we're open until 9 (Friday night).
Business has been very good. First couple hours this morning were a little on the slow side, but that's what we anticipate because of all of your early door busters at your big-box stores. That's where we anticipate people are going.
But we have been very busy all day. It's been a very good day for us so far. We seem to be a little bit ahead of last year; we're seeing a larger average sale. People seem to be buying more quantity per purchase than they would have last year. (Foot traffic) is about the same (or) a little bit more.
We are in the habit of tracking our average sale, and it has been larger. We operate a discount here in the (jelly and relish) store, if you buy 12 jars of our products that are made here, you get a 10 percent discount, and we're seeing lots and lots of those sales today.
Melissa Palermo-Spero, owner, The Fun-est Toy Store Ever!, Lancaster County: We opened at 8 a.m. (Friday). Normally we open at 10 a.m., but as the big-box stores were opening at midnight, 8 a.m. seemed like a better idea. People were sort of still out from shopping.
But now, this year a lot of guys opened at 8 p.m. (Thanksgiving Day), and we did not get as much business as we expected because I think people were just done by 4 in the morning and were in bed. Plus, we don't have a very loud voice to yell out among all of the ads and that kind of stuff.
At this point, we are down (for Black Friday sales) but I'm hoping for a better Saturday (for Small Business Saturday). Usually our Friday/Saturday combination works out that way. Friday is a little slower. Saturday is better. (Customers) are definitely looking for deals. They will say, "What deals do you have? Point me in that direction." And that's where they start.
Jennifer Glassmyer, sales associate, Kimman's For Gifts, York County: Black Friday, we had a fabulous day here downtown. The small businesses are doing well, booming.
(And) we appreciate American Express doing the Small Business Saturday. It helps our business a great deal. We actually are booming this year (compared with last Black Friday and Small Business Saturday). Everyone loves to decorate for the holidays