Black Friday shopping

The first customers from the line that wrapped around the Best Buy in Mays Landing filled the store looking for deals on electronics and more Black Friday morning 2017.

Online Black Friday deals have already given customers the chance to fill their carts and avoid the crowds, but local brick-and-mortar shops are still planning to capitalize on the annual shopping tradition this year.

Carol Kaufman-Scarborough, a marketing professor at Rutgers School of Business-Camden, said retailers can earn up to 30 percent of their yearly profits during the holiday season, and this year’s early Thanksgiving gives businesses one extra weekend to entice shoppers.

“They’re encouraging shoppers to shop online right now,” Kaufman-Scarborough said. “So it seems like a bigger push toward Black Friday pricing existing already.”

The National Retail Federation, the nation’s largest retail trade group, is expecting U.S. holiday retail sales in November and December to increase as much as 4.8 percent over 2017 for a total of $720.89 billion. The sales growth marks a slowdown from last year’s 5.3 percent, which was the largest gain since 2010.

Along with making their lower prices available online, Kaufman-Scarborough said some retailers also are adding free shipping and more gifts options for their customers at checkout.

These features fit in with a larger trend Kaufman-Scarborough has noticed as retailers continue to develop their own easy-to-use databases that compete with Amazon’s “one-click” ordering model.

Even with the expansion of online shopping, Kaufman-Scarborough said, the Black Friday experience will still compel shoppers to hit the stores this week.

“It’s combining a social occasion as well as the excitement of being in stores,” she said.

The Hamilton Mall, which will be open at 6 a.m. this Friday, plans to double its events from last year. Instead of a $1,000 giveaway, the prize has increased to $2,000. Additionally, the first 200 shoppers in line at Customer Service, up from 100 last year, will receive a scratch-off card to reveal a prize of up to $500 or a Hamilton Mall lunch bag.

Seven local radio stations will be in JCPenney Court throughout the day giving away concert tickets, Hamilton Mall gift cards and other prizes until 8 p.m.

“We definitely predict a large crowd,” said Crystal Rodriguez, manager of marketing at the mall. “The two events we had last year were very successful, which is why we’ve amped them up this year.”

Hoping to take advantage of that excitement this year, sisters Jaime Hannigan, of Egg Harbor Township, and Lisa Muratore, of Margate, plan to open a second location of their specialty shop White Lotus in the mall.

“With online shopping, a lot of people aren’t shopping in brick and mortar as much, so it’s really important to capitalize on the time you do have when there are people in the mall or people shopping,” Hannigan said.

Their new location will be one-third of the original store’s size and will be located directly below it on the bottom floor. They hope to offer customers a more personalized experience with deals such a discount wheel.

The boutique, which started as a clothing and jewelry store in 2010, has expanded to metaphysical candles and healing items and now embraces online shopping through social media advertising.

“Traditional advertising just doesn’t work for the younger demographic and even the older demographic is starting to lean in that direction, so it’s really important to be online and on social media to try and get in front of people.”

The second White Lotus location will be open for the rest of the holiday season and they plan to transition to the lower floor location year-round.

Rodriguez said she believes shoppers will come for an experience they can’t find online.

“The majority of people want to come out and shop. They want to see and touch and feel. They want to get those Black Friday bargains,” Rodriguez said. “With the experiences or services, you can’t buy those online.”

Kaufman-Scarborough said these kinds of experiences could be the future for physical stores.

“My estimate is that bricks and mortar will be different, but not gone, that there will be more integration of technology, that customers will have more experiences, trying out products and events,” she said.

Kaufman-Scarborough said it can also be important to track individual products. For example, she said someone may choose to skip the hassle of lugging a large TV while another will shop in person with friends for cosmetics.

While the traditional shopping holiday may face a bigger challenge from online shopping, Kaufman-Scarborough said if this Black Friday does show a decline in shopping activity there could be another unexpected culprit: procrastination.

The extra time in the holiday shopping season could lead shoppers to wait till the last minute.

“That’s a possibility to watch: whether there’s less patronage because there’s less pressure,” Kaufman-Scarborough said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Contact: 609-272-7239 aauble@pressofac.com

Staff Writer

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