Black Friday kicks off shortened holiday shopping season

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Black Friday deal shoppers form a line and wait in the rain for an electronics store to open its doors in Murrieta on Friday, Nov. 29. Valley News/Shane Gibson

Two men fight at Walmart Murrieta on Thanksgiving night

Jeff Pack
Staff Writer

There were some sleepy eyes and cranky faces on Black Friday, but the thousands of residents at local stores and malls were hitting on savings and deals — instead of hitting each other — for the most part. 

Late Friday, video surfaced of two men fighting inside the Murrieta Walmart location, apparently over what one of the men considered to be the disrespect of an elderly woman. 

In the video posted by Ryan Kimberly Mountain, the two men, one a Marine and the other a retired Marine, were standing in a checkout line on Thanksgiving night when an elderly woman allegedly repeatedly bumped into one of the men. 

When the man made a comment to the woman, the other man stepped in demanding that he show her respect. The two fought and wrestled in an aisle stocked with Christmas wrappings as onlookers watched. 

Once the two men go to the ground, a Murrieta Police officer enters the scene, breaking up the fight, forcing one of the men to the ground as a second officer arrives to help. 

According to multiple reports, neither of the men were arrested. 

There were no such scenes at the Kohl’s in Temecula on Friday morning as Aliesha Hulett of Fallbrook was making her second visit to the store in the past 24 hours. 

“We started last night at maybe 8 p.m. and then went home, took a nap, and came back out this morning at 8 a.m.,” she said while standing in a line that totaled more than 50 shoppers. “It’s not so bad, last night we came here and went right up to the registers – this morning’s a little different.”

As the rain came down in the early morning hours in Murrieta, shoppers huddled underneath umbrellas outside of Best Buy to get the best deals on electronics at the big box retailer. 

Expectations for the holiday shopping season are muted by experts this year due to the shortened time span between Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. 

That’s because Thanksgiving fell on Nov. 28, the latest possible calendar date it can be scheduled in a given year. This shopping cycle will be the shortest since 2013. 

Adobe Analytics predicts a loss of $1 billion in online revenue from a shortened season. Still, it expects online sales will reach $143.7 billion, up 14.1% from last year’s holiday season.

The National Retail Federation (NRF), the nation’s largest retail trade group, baked the shorter season into its forecast, but it said the real drivers will be the job market. It forecasts that holiday sales will rise between 3.8% and 4.2%, an increase from the disappointing 2.1% growth in the November and December 2018 period that came well short of the group’s prediction.

Locally, other shoppers were saying that what they were doing on Friday wasn’t what you could compare to Black Friday’s of old.

“It’s not the same kind of thing,” Joseph Knight of Hemet said. “Used to be everyone in the family got up early and went shopping early, early in the morning and you had to fight for stuff. 

“I think because it’s so easy to buy things online and sales seem to go on for days, people really only come out if they see something big that they want to buy. Something specific.”

Kasha Park and her family were out shopping on Friday, but wouldn’t admit to being Black Friday shoppers in the traditional sense. 

“I just wanted to see what deals they have, but I’m not intense, I don’t come out, like, early morning shopping,” she said while chuckling. “I’m more like afternoon shopping.”

Her husband, Joseph, said they went Black Friday shopping once when they lived in San Gabriel. 

“We did it once and it was crazy,” Kasha said. “Yeah, there were people fighting. But here, it’s actually pretty calm.”

While Park and her family were enjoying a calm day out shopping, Reviews.org released data on how committed Americans are to getting a good deal on Black Friday.

In a survey that included 335 Americans, 1 in 5 admitted they had been a part of an “escalated argument” on Black Friday, 23% said they would skip Thanksgiving dinner for shopping, and 18% said they have taken an item from someone else’s cart.

Only one person said they wouldn’t be participating this year. 

Last year’s holiday sales were hurt by turmoil over the White House trade policy with China and a delay of nearly a month in data collection because of a government shutdown. 

This year’s holiday forecast is above the average holiday sales growth of 3.7% over the previous five years.

According to Promenade Temecula General Manager Jeff Kurtz, Black Friday was a busy one for the Temecula mall. 

“With a shorter shopping season this year, expectations for an early start to holiday shopping prevailed throughout retail and many Promenade Temecula retailers reported holiday shoppers in full force weeks prior to Black Friday,” Kurtz said. “Promenade Temecula realized an increase with traffic peaking at nearly 100,000 shoppers.”

Though he said the full weekend traffic report was not yet available by press time, great deals offered by stores drew that crowds on Thanksgiving evening.

“The majority of the stores at Promenade Temecula opened at 5 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day, at that time there was strong foot traffic which grew consistently through the evening hours,” Kurtz said. “At midnight, hungry shoppers occupied the majority of the food court tables. Many of the stores remained open until the closing time Black Friday evening at 10 p.m., some stayed open even later.

“Morning traffic starting as early as 8 a.m. was heavy and became increasingly heavier throughout the day, despite the daytime rainstorm and evening near-freezing temperatures,” he said. “The parking areas, including the two garages, reached capacity before 1 p.m. on Friday.”

NRF expects online and other non-store sales, which are included in the total, to increase between 11% and 14% for the holiday period.

Adobe Analytics said that as of 5 p.m. on Thanksgiving, online sales for the day reached $2.1 billion, representing a 20.2% increase from a year ago. 

Top selling products included MGA Entertainment’s LOL Surprise toys and toys tied to the sequel to Disney’s “Frozen,” according to Adobe. Among the most popular electronics items were Amazon Fire TV, Google Chromecast and air fryers.

“This has been a really good start,” Rod Sides, vice chairman and leader of U.S. retail and distribution practice at Deloitte LLP, told the Associated Press. “Black Friday isn’t as important as it was in the past, but it is still the biggest shopping day. It is the most critical barometer of spending.”

Target reported Friday that 1 million more customers used its app to shop Black Friday deals compared with last year. The discounter said customers bought big ticket items like TVs, Apple iPads and Apple Watches.

In Europe, though, Black Friday drew a backlash from activists, politicians and even consumers who criticized the U.S. shopping phenomenon as capitalism run amok. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

Jeff Pack can be reached by email at jpack@reedermedia.com