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Black Friday is a bit bleak

Biggest shopping day of the year doesn’t attract quite the crowd typically seen at local malls likely due to the economy.

November 30, 2008|By Natalie Yemenidjian

BURBANK — When retailers opened their doors early Friday at the Town Center Mall, it was not to the huge crowds usually seen the day after Thanksgiving.

Stores lacked the painful lines usually synonymous with Black Friday, although Betsy Miringoff, spokeswoman for Burbank Town Center Mall, said foot traffic picked up later in the day.

“I’ve been here for three years, and I’ve never seen it this slow,” said Jessica Carls, of Los Angeles, as she came out Old Navy just before 6 a.m. Friday morning laden with three shopping bags.

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While tough economic times didn’t keep Carls from shopping Friday, she was just sticking to the basics, she said.

“I’ve got jeans and shirts here for the kids,” she said.

Circuit City, where more than 30 customers slept outside starting at 9 p.m. Thursday and where hundreds awaited the store’s 5 a.m. opening seemed to be the exception rather than the rule this year.

Circuit City managers were hoping their blow-out sale on Black Friday — so named for the ink retailers usually use for sales at the end of the day — will keep the company, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy earlier this month, afloat.

“Traffic has been really steady,” said Gus Lopez, store director for the Burbank Circuit City. “There are less people than last year, but they’re buying more. . . . I think we’ll be able to make our goal.”

Movies and games were selling out the most, Lopez said. But the hottest item this year was the $699 Samsung 42-inch Series 4 Plasma HDTV, which was being sold for $300 less than its original price, he said.

Many people waiting in line were there for hot sale items like highly discounted televisions and game consoles. About 65 people down the line, Beretta Gilbert waited in the 45-degree weather with her daughter. She woke up at 4:45 a.m. for sales at Pep Boys and for one personal item at Circuit City.

“I’m here to get a Taylor Swift album,” Gilbert said. “[Circuit City] is selling them for $6.97.”

America’s Research Group conducted a Christmas survey that predicted Americans will spend 40% less and buy 35% less this Christmas season than last year.

And many consumers said they were thinking bills first and Christmas gifts later. Some shoppers were snipping coupons as well as trimming their gift lists.

For Pasadena schoolteacher Ana Morales, sales at Old Navy and Bath & Body Works mean gifts for the kids, but not as many for the adults in her life.

“I’ve definitely cut down on my Christmas spending,” Morales said.

Morales is not alone. America’s Research Group’s Christmas survey found that 44% of consumers will buy less for their spouse in order to spend their normal Christmas budget on children.

Also, more than 25.7% of parents believe their children understand that they might receive fewer gifts this year due to the financial climate, according to the survey.

“I’ve definitely cut down on my Christmas spending,” Morales said.


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