Holiday shopping weekend hits Queens stores early

By Tom Momberg

Black Friday is no more in Queens—or at least it is not what it used to be.

Big-box stores have pushed door-buster deals and holiday shopping hours earlier every year, now bringing in lines of people as they open at 5 or 6 p.m. Thanksgiving Day, or even get things started the weekend before.

At shopping centers around Queens last Friday, it looked more like a regular weekend than the start of any holiday purchasing frenzy.

But people were out in number Thanksgiving evening.

Queens Center Mall coordinated its 6 p.m. opening time on the national holiday with its bigger stores that planned early door-buster deals, according to the mall’s senior property manager, Jeff Owen.

Queens Center security guards told the TimesLedger the biggest shopping rushes took place at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving and again between 10 p.m. and midnight that evening. And while they expected a rush early Friday morning, they said things were pretty calm.

Three young teenagers, Ahmad Fauster, Gustavo Tlahuizo and Brandon Costas, were expecting a huge crowd at Queens Center.

“We have been here since 8 a.m. and I am surprised,” said Tlahuizo, who bought sneakers and clothing. “I really thought it was gonna be busy.”

Fauster said he would not have come at midnight to do shopping at the mall.“My food gotta settle – I was not going to leave my house.”

Most of the people out at the College Point Shopping Center seemed to flock to Target and TJ Maxx, grabbing deals on perfume and apparel.

Austin Street in Forest Hills was slow Friday morning, with just a few customers looking for markdowns at some of the neighborhood’s bigger stores like Eddie Bauer, Men’s Warehouse and Banana Republic.

Bay Terrace Shopping Center was also slow and the only crowd was pretty young.

Isabella Reyes, 12, of Whitestone, went shopping at Aeropostale, Barnes & Noble and Aldo’s. She spent $400 on sweaters and jeans at Aeropostale, boots at Aldo’s and a book at Barnes & Noble. She said most of her purchases were not intended for gifts.

“Everything’s on sale so it’s pretty nice to take advantage of it,” Reyes said. What has traditionally been the biggest holiday shopping weekend of the year has been undergoing some rapid changes. Consumers have been split on which days to head to stores, according to the National Retail Federation, the trade organization for the industry.

The NRF’s preliminary annual survey found that about 74.2 million people were out shopping on Black Friday, and as many as 34.6 million Americans shopped on Thanksgiving Day.

These initial figures were down from the federation’s 2014 survey, which estimated about 86.9 million Americans had gone out to shop on Black Friday, and an additional 43.1 million shoppers were out on Thanksgiving Day.

This comes as Google and IBM have reported a gradual increase in online shopping traffic each year since 2012. NRF said about 103 million Americans shopped online over the holiday weekend this year, even before Cyber Monday, a large online retail discount day.

Owen said Queens Center Mall made out very well from its holiday weekend push, considering changing national trends.

“Many of our stores are up double digits in sales this holiday weekend over last year,” Owen said. “Listening to national news, that doesn’t seem to be the case across the board, so we are very encouraged by this.”

One Queens resident said she likes the fact that door busters and shopping frenzies are over with after Thanksgiving evening.

Cheryl Bingham, 38, was shopping with her two sisters at Atlas Park Friday morning, where she said she was relieved to see fewer people congesting the stores.

“We usually shop the day after Thanksgiving every year—it’s always been a fun thing to do while my family is still in town,” Bingham said. “I really don’t like crowds and never understood waiting in a huge line overnight just to save a few bucks. It’s kind of nice there aren’t a lot of people here—it makes our day more relaxing.”

Several stores, including Target and the electronics and appliance store P.C. Richards, started putting up door buster deals a week before Thanksgiving in an attempt to pick up on an early spending rush.

Other big-box stores like TJ Maxx, Burlington Coat Factory, Babies’R’Us, GameStop and Bed Bath and Beyond were closed on Thanksgiving Day, so their staggered open times made a noticeable impact on foot traffic in many commercial areas.

“I think the way (stores) did it this year was different from years past,” Corona resident Kim Blackman, 50, said while browsing stores at the College Point Shopping Center Friday. “Before they used to open at one set time. It was a little better (this year) as far as not being as crowded or chaotic.”

Reporters Sadef Kully and Madina Toure contributed to this report.