Saturday, November 28, 2009

Dispatch from the Shopping Wars: Black Friday

So-called "Black Friday" is behind us. Early spot reports from retailers indicate that the crowds were out and buying, which is a good sign, but caution still abounds. Will the shoppers return on Saturday and Sunday and the 27 shopping days until Christmas? (By the way, when did the word "shopping" in "shopping days" become redundant? It's 27 days either way.) After the jump, my own experience on Black Friday.

My chosen venue to observe Black Friday was Plano's Collin Creek Mall. The mall opened at 6:00 am this year. I encouraged shoppers to go. Go early and leave early, so I could sleep in and not have to fight the crowds when I got there in the early afternoon. It must have worked. At 1:00 pm, I saw a handful of cars parked on the grass out by Alma Rd, but I don't know why. There were plenty of parking spots in the JC Penney/Dillards lot, many of which were no farther from the mall doors than on an average shopping day at another time of the year. The mall itself was busy, but not crowded. I saw no fights break out at checkout lines. No shoppers risking hernias carrying their purchases. If the relaxed pace at Collin Creek is typical, I'd say retailers shouldn't be too quick to call a end to the Great Recession.

Maybe the move of shopping to the Internet has finally reached a tipping point. If the number of catalogs being mailed out is an indication of the number of people staying out of the stores and buying by mail or online, then there's reason for retailers to cheer. Homeowners are the ones risking hernias carrying the catalogs in from the mailbox. On Friday alone, this was my haul:

  • JCPenney (their "Big Book" may be dead, but they are still jamming mail boxes full with their specialty catalogs)
  • Brookstone (for all your BBQ grill motorized brush needs)
  • L.L. Bean (where else can you find a $69 snow bunting to keep your young one warm on his or her sleigh ride?)
  • Hammacher Schlemmer (they need to mail a catalog because no one is ever going to find their Website with a name like that)
  • Pajama Gram (maybe they know of my preferred blogging attire)
  • ACORN (ya think they should change their name?)
  • Coldwater Creek (I'll never understand how women can buy clothes without trying them on first)
  • Office Depot (because nothing says Merry Christmas better than printer ink)
  • Mrs. Fields (mmmmm!)

I also received a come-on from Macy's to tempt me to come into their store. It was a set of coupons for discounts whose amounts varied depending on how much I spent. WARNING: do not be taken in by these ploys. Last year, I foolishly tried to use one of the coupons and was told it wasn't valid for the item I was purchasing. Looking more closely at the fine print, I found the Macy's discounts excluded

"everyday values, specials, Super Buys, bridge & designer shoes, handbags and sportswear, cosmetics, fragrances, watches, Impulse, Oval Room, 28 Shop, all electrics and electronics, e-Spot, furniture, mattresses, rugs/floor coverings, sterling flatware, All-Clad, Emporio Armani, Baccarat, Tommy Bahama, Coach, Dooney & Bourke, Dyson, Ghurka, Henckels, Juicy Couture, Lacoste, Lalique, Ralph Lauren/Polo, Levi's/Dockers, Michael Kors, The North Face, Not Your Daughter's Jeans, kate spade, St. John, Tumi, UGG Australia, Louis Vuitton, Wacoal, Waterford China/Crystal/Silver, Wusthof, William Yeoward, select licensed departments, previous purchases, special orders, services, gift cards, jewelry trunk shows, alcoholic beverages, restaurants, wine."
Whew! Macy's marketing says "it's that magical time of the year." Maybe the magic is finding something that Macy's sells that their coupons can actually be applied to. But this year I was not disappointed. I was just window-shopping. Black Friday is much less stressful that way.

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