A not-so-gray black friday

Kristina Deckert

Black Friday sales jumped 3 percent compared to last year, with student workers putting in long hours and student shoppers hunting for holiday deals.

Sales the day after Thanksgiving rose to $10.6 billion, according to preliminary figures released Saturday by ShopperTrak RCT Corp., a Chicago-based research firm that tracks sales at more than 50,000 retail outlets. Last year, shoppers spent about $10.3 billion the day after Thanksgiving.

While it isn’t a predictor of overall holiday season sales, Black Friday is an important barometer of people’s willingness to spend during the holidays. Last year, it was the biggest sales generator of the season, while the Thanksgiving shopping weekend of Friday through Sunday accounted for about 10 percent of overall holiday sales.

Smart spending tips for

cash-strapped students

Kent State graduate Dan Simon, an accountant at Associated Estates Realty Corp. in Cleveland, offered tips on how students can shop for the holidays without draining their bank accounts.

Start saving early

Simon said one way he saved money through college was by checking for the best sales at grocery stores.

“The dollar went a lot further when I bought my own groceries and cooked my own food for the majority of my meals.”

He said he saved about $25 a week by staying alert to his food expenses.

Check the Internet

Using the Internet for holiday shopping can help for different reasons, he said. Browsing Web sites allows shoppers to get gift ideas, compare prices and determine what their budgets allow.

Simon said shoppers can find lower prices online because businesses want to promote online shopping.

“They can now bring in revenue from another method, and they don’t even have to ship products to the store,” he said. “They come from giant warehouses.”

Keep an eye on your account

Most banks have online banking features that allow customers to check their balances from their computer chairs.

“You can see exactly what you’re spending money on and for how much with very little lag from real-time spending,” he said.

Simon said that analyzing online bank statements can also help students prepare budgets for the future.

-Bo Gemmell

Still, experts, who predict this year’s overall holiday shopping period will be the weakest in decades thanks to an overall contraction in spending, caution that this year’s sales growth may be hard to sustain.

Black Friday shoppers

Junior psychology major Corie Craddock was one of the many students who rose early to get the best bargains. She woke up at 5:30 a.m. to shop at Summit Mall in Fairlawn.

“The mall wasn’t too packed,” she said. “But Jo-Ann Fabrics was extremely packed. I waited an hour to get material cut and 45 minutes to check out.”

Craddock said she thought some of the workers on Black Friday were rude.

“Some of the cashiers were mean,” she said. “We had some questions, and workers really didn’t answer them. I had coupons for Black Friday, and we couldn’t use them because the stuff was already on sale.

“They got annoyed when we asked them why we couldn’t use the coupons.”

Craddock said fellow shoppers in the mall were nice, but traffic on the streets was a different matter.

“The parking lot had some mean people,” she said. “We almost got in, like, three accidents trying to get a parking spot.”

Despite a few problems with workers and traffic, Craddock said her Black Friday shopping trip yielded good deals.

“I got a lot of dress clothes on sale for my brother-in-law,” she said. “I also got fleece for making blankets for $2.99 a yard at Jo-Ann Fabrics.”

Black Friday workers

Meanwhile, Alyse Papania, junior public relations major, worked at a Victoria’s Secret store in Cincinnati on Friday for the second year in a row.

“Last year, it seemed like it was bigger on the weekend,” she said. “This year was really Black Friday – there were a lot of people in the store.”

But closer to Kent, senior advertising major Erin Krumpe, who works at Target in Stow, said she helped fewer customers this year compared to last year.

“This one definitely seemed a lot slower,” she said. “At 6 a.m., there were the typical people running in, but around 7:15, the major crowds died down.” Krumpe also said she felt like Friday was just a typical busy Saturday.

Krumpe said she loves working on Black Friday.

“I like the chaos,” Krumpe said. “The day goes faster, but (Friday) was a long day. It sort of dragged on.”

Papania said customers were polite and kept her alert.

“People aren’t rude, but they’re more persistent,” she said. “They keep you on your toes. You better ring them up correctly or it’s not a pretty sight.”

Papania said she likes working Black Friday, but there’s one downfall.

“On the day after Thanksgiving, I really want to veg out on the couch and let the turkey process,” she said. “But the Black Friday shift really isn’t that bad.”

Contact student finance reporter Kristina Deckert at [email protected]. The Associated Press contributed to this report.