Retailers ramp up deals for holiday shopping season

Photo by J. Patrick Pepper

Photo by J. Patrick Pepper

Things are quiet Thursday at the Snow Globes Santa Claus experience in Fairlane Town Center. But not for long. Photo technician Tina Comilla (left) said that post-Thanksgiving lines to see Santa often come with an hour wait.

Times-Herald Newspapers

DEARBORN — To many, “the most wonderful time of the year” starts officially on Friday.

That’s when retailers, service providers and pretty much anyone else on the consumer-producer spectrum will be out in full force, seeking and making deals on some of the hottest holiday gifts.

Known among industry insiders as “Black Friday,” the increasingly publicized post-Thanksgiving sales blitz should provide some much-needed revenues for businesses stung by a dismal local economy.

The Fairlane Town Center will look to draw in shoppers with a host of special events, beginning with a three-hours-early opening at 6 a.m. Other attractions include free breakfast for the first 1,000 shoppers, prize giveaways throughout the day and, yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.

The promotions are designed to make shoppers look at Black Friday as more of an experience than just a shopping trip, said Fairlane spokeswoman Darla Bowen.

“We try to provide a little something for everybody,” she said. “We want people to come here, spend some time and enjoy themselves.”

Nationally, retail sales have been in a slump since the economy entered a recession in early 2008. Black Friday sales that year were down 3.4 percent from the previous year and are expected to decline another 1 percent to $436 billion this year, according to the National Retailers Federation.

And while sales volumes have fallen slightly over that period, the trend is driven more by changing consumer-spending habits, said NRF Chief Economist Rosalind Wells.

“As the global economy continues to recover from the worst economic crisis most retailers have ever seen, Americans will focus primarily on practical gifts and shop on a budget this holiday season,” Wells said.

To illustrate her point, Wells cited a consumer surveys on the top 10 toys for girls and boys this Christmas, recently conducted by the NRF. Of the 20 possible slots, only five were occupied by video games or gaming consoles. In fatter years, Wells said, as many as 12 of the top 20 gifts have been video-game related, although it is worth noting that the No. 1 gift for boys still is projected to be video games.

“You will see more Barbies and more G.I. Joes moved this year than in years past,” Wells said.

Surprisingly, though, many of the city’s most well-known retailers are keeping quiet on their plans. An employee at Target, 15901 Ford Road, declined to comment on what kind of deals the store is offering on Black Friday, saying, “We’re too busy right now to answer those questions.”

At the Best Buy, just across the parking lot from Target, a manager who identified himself only as Robert, said he wouldn’t know what kind of deals the store would be offering until the night before Thanksgiving. Robert also said the store was not conducting any sort of concerted promotional campaign, primarily because, well, it isn’t necessary.

“There’s going to be three or four hundred people lined up outside the door when we open anyway,” he said. “We don’t need to run promotions.”