City News Service

Black Friday Fever Brings Long Lines, Big Deals and Reports of Brawls

Although some retail experts say Cyber Monday now marks the beginning of the holiday shopping season for many younger people, Black Friday is still seeing plenty of old fashioned long lines outside brick and mortar businesses Friday, with a report of at least one brawl breaking out at a store in Palmdale.

The Citadel Outlets in Commerce had lines out the door at many of its stores, and the mall is expecting approximately 100,000 people. Shoppers began lining up as early as 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving night.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said two groups of customers at the Palmdale Walmart -- each numbering over a dozen -- were reported by staff to have brawled both inside the store and then in the parking lot at around 6:30 p.m. Thursday.

One of the people in the fight was said to have had a gun, but no arrests were made, according to Lt. Anthony Gunn.

The intense Black Friday shopping action at brick and mortar stores comes even though online sales continue to climb.

Online shopping nationally has jumped 15.2 percent in the first nine months of the year, compared to last year, said Raymond Sfeir, director of Cal State Fullerton's A. Gary Anderson Center for Economic Research.

"That is a huge increase," Sfeir said.

It indicates that the annual Cyber Monday online retail event will mark the beginning of the holiday shopping season for many younger discount hawks, Sfeir said.

"I expect ecommerce to grab an even larger portion of retail this year," Sfeir said. "It's sad to see so many stores closing in different malls and shopping centers, including a lot of clothing stores, but for young people that's where they shop these days. They like to take out the cellphone and click a few times and get something in the mail."

It's more convenient in some ways, but without trying clothes on in a store it leads to a lot of returns, Sfeir said.

"They'll order five things and keep one and ship back the rest," Sfeir said. "For the new generation that's what they're used to. They're not used to touching things and kicking the tires so to speak in the stores."

Monday sales are "increasing at a faster rate than the sales on Friday and the (Thanksgiving) weekend in general," Sfeir said.

He predicts a strong shopping season at brick-and-mortar stores, though, based on positive economic indicators.

"We have very good employment data, and that is very important -- the unemployment rate is extremely low," Sfeir said.

The stock market has been retreating, but Sfeir does not think that will affect shopping this weekend.

"I think it will be fine,'' he said. ``Profits are still strong, the economy is doing well and GDP is expected to grow next year. A little less than this year, though."

South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa already has its Santa's Village and North Pole open for photos with Santa Claus. The shopping center also has three large Christmas trees, live holiday music and will be serving hot cocoa and cider.

South Coast Plaza's seeing "double-digit increases in sales over last year," said spokeswoman Lisa Liddane before Black Friday.

The shopping center expects a record year, she added.

At The District at Tustin Legacy, retailers will offer a broad range of promotions and discounts for their customers, but the shopping center is waiting until Dec. 1 to unveil its holiday events. There's enough going on that the center itself doesn't need to entice shoppers more, Shannon Campbell, the District's marketing director, said before Black Friday.

On Dec. 1, the District will open its "Wonderland Holiday House," a repurposing of the Santa's Hut featured at last year's skating rink. The District won't offer the skating rink again this year.

The Shawna Yamamoto-designed Wonderland Holiday House will offer shoppers a chance to take photos with Santa Claus. The shopping center also will offer a "slime station" for children and train rides, she added.

On Dec. 8, shoppers can have photos of their pets taken with Santa Ana. On Dec. 15, the District will offer a food tasting event at its Union Market and a "snow fall," Campbell said.

The Irvine Spectrum started present its "Black Friday Frenzy" just after midnight on Friday. The event features DJs spinning music, free valet parking, free ice skating and free rides on its carousel and giant wheel attractions.

Copyright CNS - City News Service
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