Black Friday: Shoppers on a budget and retailers hoping for better sales -- Gazette.Net






Baltimore resident Michele Easley showed up at Westfield Montgomery after midnight Friday, but she did not plan on buying.

She came with her friends and saw them taking advantage of the sales at the Michael Kors and Forever 21 stores.

“No shopping for me. ... I am just blessed to be able to be around friends,” Easley said.

Westfield Montgomery, also known as Montgomery Mall in Bethesda, had special hours for Black Friday. Some retailers opened at 8 p.m., and the mall officially opened at midnight.

“Black Friday is sort of the inaugural start to the holiday season. It is when people start to get in the holiday mindset, and it is becoming a tradition for a lot of families to shop early together,” said Christa Allen, the mall’s senior director of marketing.

Westfield also organized sales with stores extended throughout the weekend. Customers can get between 30 percent to 50 percent discounts throughout the mall.

The 8 p.m. shoppers on Thursday were a “real family crowd” who finished their Thanksgiving dinner and came to the mall for holiday shopping. At midnight, a younger crowd visited the retail stores, she said.

“There had been people here shopping for many hours now waiting for the next wave of doors to open at midnight ... [or] People who go to Best Buy ... they get their electronics and come here afterwards,” Allen said.

The National Retail Federation estimates that holiday sales will increase 3.9 percent this year to $602 billion.

But shoppers had budgets and some knew exactly what they wanted.

Charles Attiglah, 31, a Montgomery Village resident, went to the mall to get some men’s accessories. He had a $100 budget and hoped to get the best deals for men clothes during the midnight opening.

“I came here to get some pants. ... I’m on a budget. ... I got to save up my money for my business,” Attiglah said.

To start the holiday season, the mall had for the first time a cast of elves called the Merry Makers. They were walking around the mall delivering to shoppers “random acts of magic” — including cups of coffee, mall gift cards ranging from $5 to $500, or just helping customers carry their shopping spree to the car.

The Merry Makers will choose people randomly to make the shopping experience more fun, and they will be out in the mall throughout the full holiday season, Allen said.

“They also sing and dance. They might see a family with a crying child and be able to stop and sing a Christmas carol or do a little dance. ... They will be out in the mall. You don’t know when you are going to encounter them,” she said. Andy Salamanca, wireless expert for a Sprint kiosk, said even though they opened early, sales had not been so great. He was hopeful that throughout Friday it would be a better turnout.

“It is been kind of slow [but] we are going to be open tomorrow, too. ... Everybody is shopping for clothes and shoes so when they come out that’s when we get the traffic,” Salamanca said.

But Allen said holiday shopping is a really important retail season. She said retailers sell anywhere from 30 to 40 percent of their business on average between Thanksgiving and the end of the year.

“That’s a big chunk of business, so it obviously is really important to them and we’ve seen some great traffic already in the mall,” Allen said.

Westfield Montgomery in Bethesda will stay open until 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. On Sunday, Dec. 1, the mall closes at 6 p.m.