Retailers embrace Black Friday profits

Leslie Schelat

Black Friday, one of the most anticipated shopping days of the year, brought large crowds to Chapel Hill Mall and other shopping centers across the nation. Shoppers were given large price drops and longer store hours, so they were able to make the most of

Credit: Jason Hall

The day after Thanksgiving may not be the busiest shopping day of the year but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t crowded.

According to the International Council of Shopping Centers, the Saturday before Christmas has been the busiest shopping day of the year for the last nine years. But big sales still drew big crowds at area stores on Friday, a day that often sets the tone for the rest of the holiday season.

Lines formed outside of many stores in the cold early hours of the morning, only to move inside and form at checkout counters once the stores opened. And although early-bird specials ended before noon, a steady flow of customers kept most stores on their toes long into the evening.

According to ShopperTrak RCT Corp., a company that watches sales at more than 45,000 stores, total sales figures on Friday were $8 billion, a decrease of .9 percent from last year.

This decrease comes despite more discounts and extended hours at many stores and is in agreement with the prediction of the Conference Board, a non-profit market analyst, which estimated that the average U.S. household will spend $466 on gifts this year, a $10 decrease from last year.

In contrast, the National Retail Federation improved its holiday growth forecast from 5 to 6 percent on Tuesday, a move which may be related to the drop in gasoline prices. This growth would put retail sales at almost $440 billion this holiday season.

One store seeing some of those increases is Circuit City in Cuyahoga Falls.

“As a whole, I heard the company did pretty well,” said Sandra Williams, store director. “The company took back a lot of the market share, especially in Michigan.”

Williams said customers started lining up at 8:30 p.m. on Thursday. Many of them were waiting for the limited-quantity sales on laptops and flat-panel TVs. Digital cameras, iPods and satellite radio were other hot sellers.

“I think we had more traffic and I think it wasn’t just in that first six hours, it was consistent all day,” Williams said.

Wal-Mart also fared well on Friday. After opening an hour earlier than normal and dropping prices on more items, Wal-Mart reported a 4.3 percent increase in sales compared to last year.

The deals at Wal-Mart were so good that some customers ran into problems once they got to the store. In Cascade Township, Mich., a woman and a 13-year-old girl were trampled when the store opened at 5 a.m. In Orlando, a man cutting in line to buy a discounted laptop computer was wrestled to the ground.

Wal-Mart was not available for comment at press time.

Customers started lining up outside of Target in Stow at 4:45 a.m. The store opened at 6 a.m.

“We had a slight increase over last year,” said store team leader Mike Atkinson. “We had a great deal on a TV that was regularly $300, it was on sale for $118.”

Atkinson said Game Boys, iPods and other electronics were also popular items.

Sophomore pre-finance major Amy Welling said that working on her first day after Thanksgiving wasn’t as bad as she anticipated.

“The toys and electronics were really busy,” Welling said. “We went though spurts of being busy on Saturday, and it was busy (Sunday), too.”

Contact general assignment reporter Leslie Schelat at [email protected].


What is Black Friday?

To retailers, the day after Thanksgiving is one of the busiest shopping days of the year. Stores open early with “door-buster” sales. Ultra-low priced items and promotions attract customers to the store, some waiting in line for hours. Other special promotions that continue through the day are designed to keep customers coming in the store.

This day is important to retail corporations and small businesses because it is the kick-off of holiday shopping. It receives its name from companies that hope the day will put them “in the black,” or making a profit, for the current fiscal year.

Black Friday’s online counterpart: Cyber Monday

In retail-speak, they’re called “click-and-mortar,” a spin-off on the traditional brick-and-mortar store format.

Even more modern is the online-only retailer, something along the lines of or

These are the Web sites that are revolutionizing holiday shopping. And since there is no rush to beat the crowds, the Monday following Black Friday is becoming the day to make holiday purchases online.

According to a survey conducted by, 77 percent of online retailers said sales improved considerably on what is being dubbed “Cyber Monday.” This is expected to encourage deep discounts and numerous promotions today.

One research company, Forrester Research, is predicting a 25 percent increase in overall online spending this year compared to 2004, putting total online sales at $18 billion.

– Leslie Schelat