Prepped Shoppers Kept Retail Traffic Flowing On Black Friday

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NEW YORK —

Following an initial early-bird surge, Black Friday traffic seemed no heavier than a typical busy weekend at a host of New York metro area retail stores.

The observation, by store managers and TWICE field reports, mirrors a national ShopperTrak study indicating flat year-over-year sales and a modest 2.2 percent increase in traffic for the brick-and-mortar channel on Black Friday.

New York area store managers similarly gauged day-after-Thanksgiving traffic and sales volume as comparable to 2009, and attributed the seemingly unspectacular turnout to improved crowd control and a well-prepared shopper.

“Consumers did all their homework and they came in prepared,” observed Michael Wexler, who supervised Black Friday at a Target store in Middletown, N.J. About 800 customers had cued up overnight, some camping out in tents, although the headcount was lower than last year.

“They knew what they wanted, they had maps of the store, and they shopped in teams,” he said. As a result, the early-bird frenzy was over by dawn and sales assumed the pace of a “normal Saturday for us,” with Black Friday volume on par with 2009.

Jon Jovel, general manager of a Costco in Long Island City, N.Y., concurred. “It looked like consumers knew what they wanted and did their research,” he said. “They were well informed.” Black Friday activity within the CE department was “busy but not crazy,” he noted, with TVs and home theater products topping customer shopping lists.

Mike Vitelli, president/Americas of Best Buy, spent Black Friday at the chain’s Union Square store in Manhattan. “There were long lines outside and business has been steady here,” he told TWICE. “For us we look at the entire weekend. Steady is great because we are able to move the lines and get [customers] through the store.”

At a Best Buy store in Holmdel, N.J., area home services chief Frank Baeli and department manager Adam Zwickler said a decision to let in small groups of early-bird shoppers before the official 5:00 a.m. opening led to shorter check-out times and virtually no lines by 7:00 a.m. About 460 customers had cued up overnight for limited supplies of $189 Toshiba laptops, $700 50-inch 1080p Panasonic plasmas and a last-minute TV and Wii bundle that broke via broadcast ads.

“It was more controlled than I’ve ever seen it,” Zwickler said.

At a Sears store in Middletown, N.J., customers were lined up at 5:00 a.m. for a $600 Kenmore laundry pair and $249 Dyson vacuum, among other doorbusters. “There were some great deals and we sold out pretty quickly,” said Eleanor Marchese, assistant store manager for electronics and appliances. “People are more frugal but they have money and they’re shopping. They’re not just coming in for one item.”

Unlike other stores, Kmart’s Hazlet, N.J., location enjoyed a year-over-year increase in sales and traffic. “By 9:00 a.m. sales were up $13,000 over last year and we had more foot traffic,” reported store manager Jeffrey Holdren.

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