If South Coast Plaza is any measure, the shopper has busted out.
Any hint of a sluggish economy was buried in shopping bags.
“We are expecting huge crowds today,” said Debra Gunn Downing, executive director of marketing at South Coast Plaza.
Gunn Downing is expecting a 25% increase in the number of shoppers today.
Several stores at the Costa Mesa mall had lines of people waiting their turn to shop, including Abercrombie & Fitch, Gap and Gap Kids.
Nationally, the Washington, D.C.-based National Retail Federation projects that 138 million shoppers will shop Black Friday weekend, about four million more than those who planned to do so last year.
On Black Friday, retailers bait shoppers with discounts.
This year, retailers started baiting weeks before today, offering sneak peeks on Black Friday deals. Many retailers also offered shopping flexibility this year, opening stores earlier, some at 3 a.m. Stores that opened early included Old Navy, H&M, Urban Outfitters and Dick’s Sporting Goods.
Others opened on Thanksgiving.
Sears, opened part of the day on Thanksgiving for the first time in its history. It was ready again for shoppers today at 4 a.m.
A busy Black Friday weekend often is a good sign for the rest of the holiday shopping season when retailers earn the bulk of their sales for the year.
“In line with our forecast results, there definitely seems to be a higher volume of foot traffic so far,” said Greg Palme, an audit partner for the retail sector for New York-based Deloitte LLP’s Costa Mesa office.
By noon today, Palme visited The District at Tustin Legacy, Irvine Spectrum Center and other malls.
“People seemed to be carrying more than they were last year,” he said.
Retailers are offering more value for the money this year and are prepared with more inventory, he said.
“The retailers are coming out with some really nice promotions this year, much better than the average consumer was expecting to see,” he said.
Many stores are offering buy one get one 50% off on a second item, he said. There are several retailers that had 10% to 40% until various times today.
But selling more doesn’t mean more profits, he said.
Industry watchers are waiting to see if the promotions and early hours pay off.
“You can drive a lot of sales,” Palme said. “It’s great for your business, but if you’re not getting it at the right profit margin it might not be as lucrative as you expect.”
Some of the stronger sales were seen in high definition TVs, electronic gadgets and jewelry.
“It’s clearly the year to buy a high definition TV,” Palme said. The TVs aren’t necessarily discounted, rather they’re priced lower this year.
For the Apple Store it’s the only day of the year it has a sale.
Retailers also are offering competitive prices on toys, he said.
“Kids win this year,” he said.
Gunn Downing said jewelry sales have been strong all year.
Mall sales have been trending upward. Gunn Downing expects to close out the year with sales up double digits.
“We’re exceeding expectations and are very happy about it,” she said.
“The consumer is starting to shop again.”