Throngs of shoppers across Metro Detroit were determined to keep Black Friday alive this year despite signs that the post-Thanksgiving tradition could be losing its luster.
Long lines, heavy crowds and full parking lots at suburban shopping centers showed that many are still seizing those doorbuster deals that typically kick off the holiday shopping season.
Mall representatives did not report any significant drops in foot traffic Friday morning. However, the rise of online shopping and early sales on Thursday may have curbed the stampedes and physical fights over products in years past.
“I think I do it more for tradition as I get older,” said Zarmina Amin, 21, as she waited in line to get inside the Kate Spade store at Great Lakes Crossing Outlets for a 70-percent-off sale. “Technology-wise, I shop online and clothing-wise, it’s in store.”
The early Friday rush at the Auburn Hills-based mall was a continuation of Thanksgiving night when the mall opened for six hours and families poured in after dinner.
“What you can’t do online is share the experience,” said Steve Berlow, general manager of the mall. “You can spend the whole day here, and it’s an experience. Everybody is with friends and family, and it’s a tradition – and I don’t think that tradition is going away.”
Despite the loyal shoppers, the Black Friday frenzy is quieting, some marketing experts say. That’s because many stores push sales and deals earlier in the week. They increasingly target specific shoppers through analytics by tracking buyers’ shopping habits online.
“Retailers know us so well they’re able to individually test pricing toward each of us online,” said Dave Mastovich, CEO of Pittsburgh-based marketing firm MASSolutions. “They’re able to analyze discounts specifically for each of us and when we’re most motivated to buy. We don’t necessarily have to go to the store on Black Friday.”
Mastovich notes that this year 35 percent of shoppers said they planned to shop Friday, citing a study released from PwC. That’s down from 51 percent last year. There’s also a shift to Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday.
By Friday afternoon, Fairlane Town Center in Dearborn was buzzing. There were varying levels of shopping activity among the mall’s 120 stores. While Dinky Donuts worked to draw patrons in with free samples, customer service reps at JCPenney handled long lines of customers.
Traffic seemed steady at GameStop at Fairlane. The store saw repeat business Friday from Faro Fuller, who earlier in the day purchased a PlayStation and later returned to purchase an Xbox and PlayStation games. The second purchase was an early Christmas gift from his girlfriend. He figures they saved at least a couple hundred dollars.
“I like getting stuff for real cheap,” he said.
Somerset Collection spokeswoman Linda McIntosh said Friday morning was busier than most years. She notes that new stores, including the popular Zara, are attracting more shoppers.
Although McIntosh said many are ordering appliances and electronic devices online, mall shopping on Black Friday continues to be a tradition for many. “Coming here is very much about entertainment and the experience,” she said. “Shopping is still a form of entertainment.”
On Friday afternoon, Alaina Agnello showed off patent leather boots she purchased at Aldo in Somerset for 20 percent off. Agnello, 18, of Novi, said her sister found a BCBG dress for half-off at Macy’s. Her mother was in line at Pandora.
“I think Black Friday is more for tradition and more for the fun of it, as opposed to going out and getting deals,” she said.
At Oakland Mall in Troy, there was a steady flow of shoppers at noon Friday and mall staff expected the crowds to grow as evening approached. The mall had opened its doors from 6 p.m.-midnight on Thanksgiving and then reopened at 6 a.m. Friday.
Lisa Brockhurst traveled from to the Oakland Mall from Windsor with her mom. Brockhurst said the sales weren’t as good as previous years. However, she found clothes for her kids and a few Christmas gifts.
Brockhurst said she is starting to do more shopping online, but still goes out on Black Friday for the social experience. “The deals are just as good sometimes, so why come out?” said the 38-year-old. “Why fight the crowds when you can sit in your own home?”
Jammeel Hodges had a stroller filled with shopping bags as he walked through Oakland Mall with his fiancée and two kids.
At about 1 p.m., Hodges said he was hoping to go home after shopping for six hours. “It’s kind of hectic,” said Hodges, 30. “There is traffic, the mall is kind of packed; lines are long with everyone trying to get good deals.”
At Macomb Mall in Roseville, hundreds of cars were parked near the main entrances. As some shoppers exited, others were just getting started.
“We will stay consistently busy throughout the day,” said Apple Wick, assistant general manager at the Roseville mall. “Our stores have done their holiday hiring and training. They’re pumped and ready to go.”
Casey Trudeau of Roseville and her daughter, Melanie, stocked up on Bath & Body Works candles for themselves and to give as gifts. The pair said they felt relaxed shopping Friday, partly because the shopping frenzy began Thursday for other shoppers.
“When they started all the sales on Thursday, that got rid of the rush on Black Friday,” Trudeau said. Among those who waited in line early Friday morning at the Best Buy in Roseville was Jessica Wietecha of St. Clair Shores. She purchased a printer for her mother for $89 that was originally priced between $200-$300.
“It was a really good price,” she said. “It was definitely worth it. I go every year. You get a lot of good deals and I like shopping, so it’s fun.”
Also out early were Paul Sturgis and his fiancee Shante Jemison, who arrived at the Best Buy store at 5:30 a.m. in hopes of purchasing a 55-inch Toshiba television. “It was too good of a deal to pass up,” Sturgis said. The couple were the fourth in line at the store, which opened at 8 a.m.
Delores Yates of Clinton Township said she thinks the appeal of Black Friday has declined. She hasn’t participated in a Black Friday shopping outing for about 15 years.
“I don’t like crowds,” said Yates. “I don’t like the hassle.”
Yates was in the midst of Friday shoppers at a Target store in Clinton Township. But she wasn’t there to do Christmas shopping – she was buying fruit juice.
Roseville resident Joann Scupa said she stood in a line waiting for the doors at the Target store to open at 6 a.m., but was able to get her shopping done relatively quickly. She purchased -clothing for her grandson and husband, and bedding for herself.
Scupa said she noticed last year a decrease in crowds. She’s learned to shop online ahead of time to plan what she’ll purchase, but prefers to shop in the store.
“I want to see what I’m buying,” she said. “When it comes to clothing, you want to feel stuff.”