Shoppers took advantage of Black Friday discounts to snap up televisions, laptop computers and robot hamsters at Best Buy Co., Target Corp. and Toys “R” Us Inc. stores from New Jersey to Texas.
Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world’s largest retailer, drew crowds with $298 Hewlett-Packard laptop computers and other doorbuster specials that went on sale at 5 a.m. Best Buy Inc., the biggest electronics chain, had bigger early-morning crowds than last year, Chief Executive Officer Brian Dunn said. The lines in front of the stores were longer, and the company’s Web site attracted more visitors, Dunn said.
“Those are both directionally important indicators for us,” Dunn said in a Bloomberg Television interview.
The day after U.S. Thanksgiving is known as Black Friday, the traditional beginning of holiday buying. Explanations of the phrase’s origins differ, one holding that it’s the weekend when retailers go to being in the black, profitable for the year. Stores open early on Black Friday and offer early-bird discounts to attract business. This year, shoppers say they plan to spend less on gifts than they did last year.
“I do this because of my family,” Eihab Elzubier, a truck driver, said as he stood at the head of the line outside a Best Buy in Greensboro, North Carolina, before the store opened this morning. He arrived at 9 a.m. yesterday and kept his place in line with help of his wife, mother and sister.
Elzubier, 41, figured the 20-hour wait would save him as much as $1,000. He planned to buy a 42-inch Samsung flat-panel TV for $547.99, a Sony laptop computer for $399.99, a Compaq laptop for $179.99, software and accessories.
Walmart, based in Bentonville, Arkansas, kept stores open all night so shoppers could grab $3 pajamas and $15 Miley Cyrus jeans when they went on sale at 5 a.m. Employees handed out vouchers for discounted consumer electronics to early arrivals and distributed circulars and maps indicating promoted items.
The world’s largest retailer cut some toy prices to $5. Walmart, Plano, Texas-based J.C. Penney Co., Target, Macy’s Inc. and Sears Holdings Corp.’s Kmart all advertised discounted slow cookers for early shoppers in Thursday circulars. Prices ranged from $3 to $20.
Shirley Johnson, 48, an accounting clerk from Rittman, Ohio, was hunting for the best values on items like gloves by keeping fliers in her car and going from store to store.
“Normally my cart would be full with gifts on Black Friday,” she said at the Walmart in Medina, Ohio. “Now I have maybe $10 worth of carefully picked items that were on special. There are just more and more expenses and less and less money.”
Walmart fell 33 cents to $54.63 at 1:01 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. Target fell 13 cents to $47.70. Richfield, Minnesota-based Best Buy lost 43 cents to $42.83, and J.C. Penney declined $1.07 to $29.57.
Based on visit to stores and comments by store employees, sales are probably meeting or exceeding projections, David Schick, a Baltimore-based analyst with Stifel Nicolaus & Co. wrote in a note to investors today.
There seem to be more discounts on TVs this year, and shoppers are snapping them up, said Charles O’Shea, a New York- based retail analyst with Moody’s Investors Service. In the four hours he spent checking retailers in northern New Jersey, he saw several shoppers standing at bus stops holding flat-panel sets.
“It looks like everybody has caught the promotional bug pretty heavily,” O’Shea said.
The 12,000-car parking lot at Taubman Centers Inc.’s Woodfield Mall in Chicago was 35 percent full by 6 a.m., compared with 28 percent last year, Bill Taubman, chief operating officer of Taubman Centers, a U.S. real estate investment trust with 24 malls, said in a telephone interview.
“There’s a little more traffic than last year across the board, maybe 10 percent,” he said.
Toys “R” Us, based in Wayne, New Jersey, had an average of 1,000 people outside all its stores before they opened at midnight, five hours earlier than last year, said Chairman and CEO Jerry Storch. The chains sold a “significant number” of Apple Inc. iPods and tens of thousands of Zhu Zhu Pets robot hamsters, he said.
Angela Akra, a 33-year-old office manager from Bristol, Connecticut, got to the Toys “R’ Us store at the Corbin’s Corner shopping center in West Hartford last night at 10:50 p.m. and snared a coveted ticket for a $10 Zhu Zhu Pets toy.
“We’re optimistic,” Storch said in a telephone interview today. “The last thing parents will cut back on is toys for their kids.”
Victoria’s Secret, Macy’s
In New York’s Herald Square, shoppers streamed in and out of the Victoria’s Secret and H&M stores with multiple shopping bags at dawn.
Shopper traffic appeared greater than a year ago, and continued to flow into the Herald Square store after the initial rush, Macy’s Chairman and CEO Terry Lundgren said. Housewares and jewelry were selling “briskly,” he said.
“Last year, we were in a much more defensive posture,” Lundgren said in a telephone interview. “This year, we are in a much more offensive posture.”
Martha Alfaro, 29, a retail production manager, bought a coffee maker after arriving at the store at 5 a.m.
Members of more than a quarter of U.S. households planned to shop today, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers, a New York-based trade group.
Deann Smyers, 53, arrived at a Best Buy in Houston at 7:30 a.m. on Thanksgiving to wait for the chance to buy a Samsung refrigerator offered at almost half of its original price. Her son Dustin, 28, was looking for a GPS and laptop.
“We researched the ads, and this just had the things we wanted,” she said.
Joe Dejean, a 24-year-old financial consultant, found 60 percent off on menswear at a Saks Inc. store in New York and picked up some shirts and toiletries.
“I’m not really sure if prices are going to get any lower,” he said. “I may come back to Saks later after checking a few more places.”
With unemployment at 10.2 percent, price is more important to consumers this year than selection, quality or convenience, according to the National Retail Federation. Shoppers may spend an average of $682.74 on Christmas gifts this year, compared with $705.01 last year, according to the Washington-based NRF.
Apple reduced the price of 21.5-inch iMac computers by $101 to $1,098 today and discounted its 64-gigabyte iPod Touch musical device by $41 to $358, according to the Cupertino, California-based company’s Web site.
Lorna Artibani, 52, hosted a meal at home yesterday for a dozen family members until 10:30 p.m. An hour later, she and her 30-year-old daughter headed to the Toys “R” Us in West Hartford, Connecticut, to look for gifts for her 9-year-old granddaughter.
“It’s kind of like the excitement of getting that elusive game,” said Artibani.