By TimesLedger Newspapers Staff
Queens shoppers left the Thanksgiving dinner cleanup for later and opted to hit the stores in search of bargains as retailers opened that evening for an early start to Black Friday holiday spending. At the Sky View Center in downtown Flushing, customers waited in a long line in front of Best Buy that snaked around the parking lot.
“Last year was not as organized as this year. The security situation was no good, but this year they have done good preparation,” said Hayat Masudi, who was waiting with his son to buy a PlayStation 4 and cellphones for his electronics store. Masudi waited in line for two hours last year and said he was prepared to devote four hours to Black Friday this time around.
Most shoppers said they were going to spend more money or at least the same amount as last year on holiday shopping.
“Last year the budget was low, and this year it’s good, so we’re going to take that budget from last year and triple it,” Masudi said.
By the time store owners tallied the receipts Monday, it appeared Masudi was not alone in opening up his wallet during the four-day weekend. The New York Retail Council reported spending was on par with 2012 levels with sales generally even with a comparable period from one year ago.
“It’s the perfect time to roll out the old phrase about comparable apples to oranges,” said James R. Sherin, president and CEO of the state’s retail council. “We’re looking at a transition year with more merchants than ever spreading out the post-Thanksgiving promotions, adding to the notion that Black Friday is no longer the busiest shopping day of the year.”
Black Friday kicks off the critical holiday sales period, which can generate between 20 percent and 40 percent of retailers’ profits for the year.
Elizabeth Victorino was one of those souls who braved the bitter temperatures last Thursday in her hunt for clothing bargains at the Old Navy store in the Sky View Center.
“I’m waiting for the savings,” said Victorino. “It’s 50 percent off, which is a really good price. I’m also looking for small gifts. If they are less it could be a good saving for Christmas.”
Across town in Elmhurst, bundled customers queued outside the Queens Center waiting for its 8 p.m. Thanksgiving opening.
By Friday morning, Gail Barnes, manager of Perfumania, was in the middle of her 17th-straight hour at work.
“My makeup has fallen on the floor, let me tell you,” she said.
Eyeing the foot traffic, Barnes said she and many of the mall’s retailers were happy with the turnout in this abridged holiday season.
“A good start is extremely important because we lost six shopping days,” Barnes said. “We have to be on our game this year.”
Over at The Body Shop, manager Jeanine Hayes noticed a bigger crowd of shoppers this year.
“Traffic has been much better than last year because of Hurricane Sandy,” Hayes said. “This mall reaches Brooklyn and the Rockaways so no one was shopping last year.”
Across the country, record numbers of shoppers ventured out during the four-day sales period but spending is expected to fall for the first time since the National Retail Federation began tracking it in 2006, the AP reported Tuesday.
Here in New York, retailers who responded to a survey remained optimistic about the next few weeks despite national predications that the season will bring only modest sales increases, Sherin said.
“There’s no question that shoppers are out there demanding bargains,” Sherin said. “It’s what they’ve come to expect this time of year, and retailers are looking for new ways to deliver low prices and great value.”
In College Point, Tim Kiley skipped the early opening times but still rolled out a 40-inch Magnavox flat-screen television he purchased for a family member at Target.
“I just got a couple of things today,” said the Whitestone resident, who was looking to spend about as much money on presents as he did last year. “I don’t really like to deal with all those crazy crowds.”
By mid-morning Friday, the crowds at Rego Park Center were subdued as Kathy Erskine browsed the housewares section of Sears.
Erskine said she stuck to her usual holiday shopping schedule and skipped the overnight rush.
“I usually shop the weekend after Thanksgiving because there are sales,” she said. “But I don’t go at midnight or anything. I’m not that serious of a shopper.”