Black Friday may fall short of expectations

A nearly-empty mall parking lot in Willow Grove, PA (Reuters/Jilian Mincer)

A nearly-empty mall parking lot in Willow Grove, PA (Reuters/Jilian Mincer)

Reports coming into Capitol Hill Blue from reporters and readers around the country suggest “Black Friday” for 2013 isn’t what retailers expected or say they need for a successful holiday shopping season.

“Some shoppes were surprised thin early morning crowds at Willow Grove Park in Willow Grove, Pennsylvania, a Philadelphia suberb,” says Reuters reporter Suzanne Barlyn.

Phil Waha reporters empty hallways and a very quiet morning at Westchester Mall in White Plains, New York.

Retailers are resorting to massive markdowns to try and draw customers in on what is normally the busiest shopping day of the year.  Gap outlet stores are offering 50 to 70 percent off all items in the store.

Shopping is reported heavier at discount stores like Walmart but regular customers say the crowds appear smaller this year and not that larger than a normal Friday at a Walmart in Christiansburg, Virginia.

“Had no trouble finding a place to park, found what I wanted and was out in less than 30 minutes,” said Rhonda Hathaway as she carried a small big of items back to her car.

“Looks like Black Friday will turn into a lot of red for stores is the crowds stay small like this,” said Randy Belkins at a Walmart in Grundy, Virginia.

In Willow Grove, PA, Barlyn reported: “A Best Buy in Willow Grove, Pennsylvania was eerily quiet at 6 A.M. on Friday morning. The store’s floor workers and cashiers – roughly 23 in all – outnumbered about 15 customers.”

Best Buy, hit with massive losses in recent fiscal quarters, is one of a group of stories on a “do or die” watch list by retail analysts.  Other chains on the endangered species list include K-Mart and the one dominant Sears.

“It’s not the same,” said Suzanna Leison at New River Valley Mall in Christiansburg, VA, where the Sears store closed in July of this year.  “I suppose I should say I miss Sears but I really don’t.  The store was not what it used to be.”

If Black Friday and the following Saturday and Sunday of the weekend fall short of expectations, retailers will watch warily to see what happens with online shopping on “Cyber Monday,” the traditional big shopping day for those who use the Internet for the bulk of their shopping.

“They’ve dug their own grave,” says retail analyst Howard Davidowitz, who thinks retailers who opened on Thanksgiving Day ahead of Black Friday will hasten their demise.

“What do you do next?  Start on Wednesday? It’s a comedy of desperation,” he adds.

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