Every year, the Friday after Thanksgiving attracts masses of people to malls and department stores around the country, during the blackness of predawn morning.
Of course the term “Black Friday” actually refers to the stores’ eagerly anticipated profits and not the color of the sky when the biggest bargains are found.
Deal-seeking shoppers come out in droves and help retailers go from being in the red to boosting sales that send profits into the black.
But Black Friday is not only a day anticipated by the market, this is the day where shop-a-holics and cheap-a-holics unite to wipe stores out of almost everything on the shelves.
Not surprisingly, in-store sales dropped this year almost 20 percent from last year, whereas online sales saw an increase. Regardless of the economy, many still battled the cold and the overwhelming lines by camping out early in front of stores.
Wal-Mart, a place many turn to for the best bargains, was a major attraction on Black Friday. This year Wal-Mart threw customers for a loop. It passed out tickets to customers for big sale items such as plasma televisions and MP3 players. So for those that waited in the line wrapping around the entire department store during the morning, it was proved pointless considering many of the items were already pre-held by other customers that were lucky to get a ticket the previous night.
With its new policy, Wal-Mart still stood tall, reporting a 3.2 percent increase on Black Friday and holding the third spot for most profitable store in the United States.
However blow-out sales can come at a high price.
Last year on Black Friday a Wal-Mart employee was trampled to death in Long Island after hundreds of shoppers smashed through the doors.
“To be honest, it was pretty chaotic this year,” said Michael Macintosh, cashier at the Glendora Wal-Mart. “It could have gone better but order was good and luckily no fights broke out.”
Throughout the day department stores struggled to maintain messy isles while controlling check stand lines.
The shining star that stood out from all the others this year was was Target, which opened at 4 a.m. with efficient organization.
“I went to Target to check out the flat screen TVs and of course the parking was bad and the store was filled, but there were tons of employees on staff and every check stand was open,” said Marilyn Cuevas, a Target shopper.”Target was also surprisingly clean and had sections of Black Friday specials compared to Wal-Mart where everything was unorganized and all over the place.”
Almost every store has some type of juicy deal, whether its 20 percent off everything in the store or selected items for half price.
Sports Authority in the West Covina mall promoted free scratch cards for the first 80 customers. Each card contained a certain amount of store credit after scratched, ranging from $10 to $500. With the grand prize being $500 store credit for that day.
“It was so glorious winning the $500 store credit at Sports Authority,” said 22-year-old Samuel Sanchez. “I wasn’t really planning on shopping but I decided to around 3:30 p.m., which is considered late shopping on Black Friday. I decided to look for a new mountain bike or rock climbing stuff.”
“At first when I scratched the card and saw that I won $500, I thought it was a gimmick that required some kind of mail-in-rebate, but the manager came up to me and said I won and announced it over the intercom. It was pretty cool but the guy that was in line in front of me was pretty bitter. I bought a new mountain bike so I was happy.”
The Ontario Mills Outlet Mall was another hot spot for those seeking great door-busting prices, most notably the Coach Factory Store, which really backed-up mall traffic.
“I went to Ontario Mills only to shop at Coach,” said Alma Espana, a senior at Cal Poly Pomona. “There were 300 people in line when I got into the mall around 11 a.m. … it caused some yelling between customers.”
Black Friday, traditionally the biggest shopping day of the year, is also the traditional kick-off day for the Christmas season.
Charlie Neff can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.