Bargain hunters push Black Friday weekend into record books

Jennifer Ffrench-Parker | , Ken Watts | 12/6/2013, 6 a.m.
Thanksgiving night shoppers at the Walmart on Gresham Road taking advantage of early holiday discounts.

Holiday shopping is off to great start with area retailers reporting huge crowds.

Tene Gallemore, manager of the Gallery of South DeKalb in Decatur, said that when the Black Friday shopping weekend wrapped up on Sunday, mall traffic was up nearly 2 percent over 2012.

“Gaming, men’s apparel and electronics reported small increases over last year and photos with Santa sales were up,” Gallemore said. “It will be a shorter shopping season but we remain hopeful.”

At the Mall at Stonecrest, where shopping began in full swing on Thanksgiving Day, marketing manager Donald Bieler said the crowds ebbed and flowed overnight.

By midday Friday, the mall was packed.

“Our challenge is to keep them coming back before the last weekend before Christmas,” he said.

Retailers lured shoppers to the stores with Thanksgiving sales that had many people eating earlier Thanksgiving meals so they could head out to the stores.

Walmart stores unveiled specials at 6 and 8 p.m. Thanksgiving Day and lines were long.

Macy’s, Best Buy, Kohls and Target also drew bargain hunters on Nov. 28 with 30 percent to 60 percent off on electronics, bedding and clothes.

Nationally, the National Retail Federation says 226 million shoppers, up from 212 million last year, spent a record $52.4 billion over the Black Friday weekend. On Nov. 29, Black Friday shoppers spent $11.4 billion.

The federation said that the record spending was driven by consumers’ voracious appetites for great deals on Thanksgiving and Black Friday. Its survey conducted by BIGresearch found that traffic and spending were up both online and in stores.

The average holiday shopper spent $398.62 over the weekend, up from $365.34 last year. Online, spending averaged $150.53.

The survey found 28.7 million people shopped online and at stores on Thanksgiving Day – up from 22.2 million last year.

Matthew Shay, NRF president and CEO, said that the shopping frenzy was a promising sign for the economic recovery.

“After an historic holiday weekend, retailers know the holiday season is far from over and will continue to look for ways to excite holiday shoppers and build on the momentum we’ve seen thus far,” he said.

Locally, deep discounts on flat-screen televisions and RCA Tablets were some of the deals that attracted shoppers to area Walmart stores.

Fairington Walmart’s store manager Greg Clark said he was ready for the throngs and pleased with the turnout.

“Even with the new stores that opened around me, we did well,” he said.

Timothy Gates of Decatur scored a 32-inch Funai LED flat-screen TV at the Gresham Walmart on Thanksgiving night for $98, a fraction of the regular $384 price.

“I got here at 3 p.m. to make sure I was near the beginning of the line when the sale started at 6 o’clock,” he said.

Shawn Middle of Atlanta found a Pulse Electric scooter for her 5-year-old son for $69, more than 50 percent off the regular price of $140. To get the deal, she had to skip Thanksgiving dinner.

“I’m hungry,” she said. “I postponed Thanksgiving dinner to come out and get this, but it was worth it.”