A mixed Black Friday between hope and apprehension

Twenty-one months after the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, a Black Friday filled with hope and apprehension for retailers was a mixed picture in Connecticut, with many malls filled with shoppers and others showing crowds smaller.

Hundreds of people took to the Danbury Fair shopping center for its 7am opening, for example, but a much smaller number appeared for The SoNo Collection’s opening hours later on Route 7.

Likewise, later Friday morning, drivers of the Intrstate 95 east of New Haven took the recovery lanes for the exits of the Clinton Crossing Premium outlets. But the Westbrook Premium Outlets, just 10 kilometers further east, were quieter.

A late fall drizzle affected the plans of some buyers but not others, while the specter of rising prices and shortages of some commodities may have played a role in drawing buyers into stores, or maybe sticking them to their laptops at home for online shopping.

And in some places, an early Chanukah – the Jewish holiday that begins Sunday night – has added to the hubbub of Black Friday.

Across the region, crowds have gathered steadily in the afternoons, whether for a jump in gift shopping or just for some holiday season magic after the COVID-19 virus has hit. reduced many activities and gatherings last year.

Just before 8 a.m. on Friday, Jon Lessard had completed his overnight shelf storage shift at the Target store inside the Connecticut Post Mall. Taking a break on a mall sofa, Lessard unwrapped a gift he bought himself as a small reward for a hard night’s sleep – a box of “Magic: The Gathering” game cards on sale for $ 10 – before walking around the mall himself with a peeled eye for any other offerings.

“I just want to see what they have,” Lessard said.

Lessard was not alone, with large numbers of shoppers heading to southern and western Connecticut, to some stores in the early hours, but increasing throughout Black Friday. This included Stamford town center, where foot traffic was well above its typical daytime level.

“I wanted to see if they had any good deals here,” said Jonathan Hermosura, a Stamford resident, after a stop at the Banana Republic store in Stamford town center. “I had two pants and a sweater. It was 40 percent off, so you can’t beat that.

Since late October, retail executives have repeatedly said their biggest worry was not whether people would be going to shop, but whether stores would have enough stock to meet demand. .

On that wait at Best Buy stores in Norwalk and Danbury, boxed TVs were placed throughout the store. And at Walmart in both cities, bins of items under $ 10 were placed throughout the store, unpacked only Friday morning for sale.

But the Best Buy barricades positioned on its outdoor walkway were unnecessary on Black Friday morning, with heavy traffic but shoppers not crushing the store’s capacity.

Some shoppers had mostly completed their holiday shopping aside from improvised items that could surface in the coming weeks, according to a National Retail Federation survey in early November.

A buyer loading a van at Walmart on Connecticut Avenue in Norwalk early Friday morning, who did not want to be identified by name, said it was the first of two stops today to end the season for holiday shopping.

Fairfield resident Mark Lundvall said the extended window for transactions in recent years took away some of the appeal of bargain hunting on Black Friday.

And Lundvall is seeing signs of inflation seep into Black Friday prices this year, with some products selling for more than he might have expected to pay at regular prices from previous years.

“I think Black Friday has completely lost its luster,” Lundvall said.

Elsewhere, buyers have found the opposite.

“I see a lot of stores have discounts so I think I’ll buy,” said Hassan Sharif, Stamford resident at Stamford Town Center shopping center.

An analyst at financial data firm Refinitiv confirmed Lundvall’s observations with specific numbers on Friday, during an appearance on CNBC.

“The average promotional discount is much lower this year compared to the previous two years,” Jharonne Martis, director of consumer research for Refinitiv, said on CNBC. “This is mainly because of supply concerns.”

With toy safety another ongoing concern, US Senator Richard Blumenthal joined representatives from Connecticut Children’s Medical Center to discuss warnings in ConnPIRG’s annual “Trouble in Toyland” – a guide to protecting families from toys that present choking hazards, data security issues, and other dangers.

Jared Greenman, owner of the Funky Monkey toy store on Greenwich Avenue in Greenwich, said Black Friday is all about having products on the shelves.

“Hanukkah is early this year – Christmas and Hanukkah are spread out – so we’ve already seen a big increase in sales,” Greenman said. “Our reserves were packed for maybe a month or two at the start of the year, just to cover our bets and make sure we had the supply. We didn’t want to risk entering the holiday season without the right amount of inventory.

With shopping mall corridors and supermarket aisles focused on Black Friday, attention shifts to independent stores on “Small Business Saturday” and then to online channels on “Cyber ​​Monday”. On “Tuesday I Give”, charitable giving takes center stage.

Is there still a lot of consumer purchasing power left in the reservoir for the weeks to come? Matt Seebeck, Managing Director of The SoNo Collection, is among those who believe in it.

“The holiday season is really in full swing until the Saturday before Christmas,” Seebeck said. “We are just happy to be in the position we are in this year compared to last year.”

Paul Schott and Luther Turmelle contributed reporting.

[email protected]; 203-842-2545; @casoulman

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