MERIDEN — Black Friday got off to a tepid start Friday morning at the Westfield Meriden mall with some shoppers saying the addition of Thanksgiving Day shopping has provided another alternative for those looking to get an early start on Christmas shopping.
Customer traffic was up significantly by the afternoon, however, with few parking spaces available in the mall’s lot.
”It was dead this morning,” said Kathi Ulatowski of Meriden, who was in the food court with her mother, Christine Ulatowski. ”I’ve been coming to Black Friday since I was in high school. My mom and I would get up every morning at 6 a.m. It’s just a tradition we’ve been doing forever.”
Mother and daughter said they visited most stores from Ulta to Macys and were buying primarily for themselves.
This year’s best Black Friday deals were on electronics and TVs, and included Apple AirPods and Sony Playstation VR, while top toys included PJ Masks, L.O.L. Surprise!, Hatchimals and Hatchimals Colleggtibles, Shopkins, Disney Princess, Baby Alive/LOL Surprise dolls, and anything associated with Disney’s “Frozen.” For boys, LEGOs again top the list of must-haves, followed by video games.
Almost 116 million consumers planned to shop or were considering shopping on Black Friday, according to a National Retail Federation survey. Two-thirds of those surveyed said the deals were “too good to pass up,” while 26 percent cited tradition.
However, a separate survey by PwC, also known as PricewaterhouseCoopers, found that only 35 percent of consumers expected to do most of their Black Friday week shopping on Black Friday itself, down from 59 percent in 2015.
Amazon will account for about 44 percent of U.S. retail e-commerce sales this year, according to EMarketer Inc.
By Friday at 9 a.m., consumers had spent $640 million shopping online, representing an 18.4 percent growth over last year’s Black Friday, according to Adobe. On Thanksgiving, consumers shelled out $2.87 billion buying products online.
Adobe’s survey tracked 80 percent of online transactions at the nation’s 100 largest web retailers. Adobe also expects Cyber Monday to be the largest online shopping day in history.
There were plenty of deals to bring shoppers into the stores either Thursday night or Friday. Best Buy’s 50-inch Sharp TV blockbusters were gone Thursday night, and Michele Baribault of Cheshire said she overheard employees telling customers they were sold out of specific items.
Baribault picked up a good deal on a Dell laptop for her daughter in college and planned to hit Hot Topic and Boscov’s for more shopping.
“We were in here a month ago,” she said. “Everything I read said to get it now. I’m just browsing for the most part. It’s not as bad as I thought it would be. I usually come out late.”
Marissa Couch of Meriden didn’t have a plan but found a television at Best Buy for her father in law. “It’s a great price,” she said.
Old Navy was discounting purchases 50 percent as was Ann Taylor’s The Loft, and H&M had deals as low as $3. Yankee Candle was having a buy three get three candle free sale that was drawing customers into the candle shop.
Andrea Briatico of Bristol was at Yankee Candle after getting pajamas for a PJ day at work. She was planning a final stop at Bed Bath & Beyond.
“That’s also for me,” she said. “I know it sounds very selfish.”
The morning was quiet at the mall with one manager saying Thursday shopping means the stores shouldn’t have to open early on Black Friday, as the shoppers don’t tend to come to the mall until later in the afternoon. By 12:30 p.m. parking was at a premium.
“It’s kind of an outdated tradition to do the 5 a.m. thing; nobody is here,” said AJ Anglelo, a store manager at Game Stop who was not speaking for the chain. “I’m spending more on payroll. Everybody does their shopping on Thursday. Anyone at 5 a.m. will come back at noon.”
Nancy Sobolvesky worked a Kitchen Magic kiosk wearing a reindeer headband and festive beads.
“I came in at 9 a.m.,” she said. “I was expecting it to be a little heavier than this. But there is still a lot here.”
Westfield Marketing manager Katherine Bolas could not release individual store counts but said traffic was strong.