Retailers across the East Valley and nation today are bracing for the annual onslaught of credit card-wielding customers. Tomorrow is “Black Friday,” a day when consumers binge on consumer goods for the holiday.
The name comes from the assumption that retailers go from red to black in terms of profi tability on the day after Thanksgiving.
It may not be the busiest shopping day of the year, but it’s one economists and retailers watch closely as an indicator of things to come.
“It’s really the day you see the majority of consumers starting to make holiday purchases,” said Patrice Ducker, a spokeswoman with the International Council of Shopping Centers.
One thing national industry watchers will be scrutinizing closely this year is the period during which shoppers take a break from their holiday shopping, Ducker said. Every year, consumers will take a breather at some point form the hustle and bustle of the malls and stores. If shoppers take that break earlier in the season, stores are expected to react by making deeper price cuts to entice the crowds.
National polls of expected shoppers are mixed. About 30 percent of respondents to a recent national survey by Consumer Reports said they plan to go shopping today, which would be a four-point rise from last year. And a survey released by Deloitte & Touche on Nov. 1 found that consumers were bullish about the economy, so much so that 63 percent plan to use checks, debit or credit to make their holiday purchases. The report said many respondents were encouraged by lower gas prices and relatively unswayed by a cooling housing market.
However, another poll by Zogby Interactive shows that less than half that number — 14 percent — plan to shop today. Another report by Consolidated Credit Counseling Services showed that 59 percent of consumers planned to spend less money this year.
Lee McPheters, director of the Bank One Economic Outlook Center and an economics professor at Arizona State University, said he’s confi dent about retailers’ prospects in the state, however. He pointed to economic indicators like employment rates, job growth and income growth suggests a strong holiday season in the state as well.
“You’d have to be hard pressed to have a negative view of the Arizona economy right now,” he said. “It’s all kind of rosy.”
McPheters said it would take some sort of “external shock” such as a spike in oil prices or an unexplained drop in the stock market to damper consumer confidence.
He added that ongoing violence in Iraq shouldn’t have an effect barring anything of a “catastrophic nature.”
Lindsay Saftchick, a manager at the Target store at 32351 N. Scottsdale Road, said her co-workers started planning for the day early in the week.
“I’m going to be expecting quite a large crowd,” she said.
The store will be luring shoppers by offering a variety of discounted products on a first-come, first-serve basis, she said.
Jon Fritz, district manager for Disney Store, said employees started preparing the shops on Wednesday for throngs of shoppers, who he said will begin lining up around 3 a.m.
The stores will open two hours later at 5 a.m.
“It’s a real important day for us,” he said.
Jim Babb, a Circuit City spokesman, said his company expects that two-thirds of shoppers will be hunting for bargains today.
Like many other retailers, Circuit City released a circular advertising its Black Friday discounts available in stores on their Web site.
“There are substantial discounts,” he said. “People have just come to expect that.”
Paul Douglas, manager at Best Buy at 6315 E. Southern Ave. in Mesa, said he expects customers to start congregating in front of his store tonight.
“People just camp out right in front of the stores,” he said.
Douglas, who said video games and flat screen panels will be the big sales generators this year, anticipates his stores foot traffic to exceed last year’s.
Several retailers at local malls that are opening their doors at 5 a.m. including KB Toys, JC Penny, Limited Too, and The Children’s Place at Superstition Springs Center in Mesa. Meanwhile, Disney Store and Macy’s plan to open doors at 6 a.m. at Scottsdale Fashion Square in Scottsdale.