Taking a stroll through the mall yesterday, I saw few signs — literally — of the coming Black Friday madness.
The picture I snapped of the ad to the right was one of the rare clues that shoppers soon would be scouring stores at ungodly hours to steal some deals.
Of course, retailers undoubtedly are preparing behind the scenes; shoppers hardly need a reminder. The post-Thanksgiving spree makes for the most overanalyzed and anticipated day of the entire retail year.
Despite the recent hurricane and continued economic uncertainty, consumer spending is expected to be strong, and Black Friday is expected to be momentous — a sentiment expressed by the managers of several mall retailers.
Take GameStop (NYSE:GME), for example. The struggling video game retailer did not yet have sales promoted in the mall location I visited, but the store manager was optimistic about the coming rush.
“We expect to shoot over our goals this year,” she said. “Probably by more than 20%.”
While America’s Research Group forecasts that parents will buy fewer video games — under 48% plan to snatch some up, compared to more than 50% last year — several great new consoles and popular game releases are expected to give the retailer an extra boost. Nintendo‘s (PINK:NTDOY) Wii U console, Microsoft‘s (NASDAQ:MSFT) Halo 4, Activision Blizzard‘s (NASDAQ:ATVI) Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 and Ubisoft‘s (PINK:UBSFY) Assassin’s Creed III are just a few that could lure in shoppers.
Staff at Urban Outfitters (NASDAQ:URBN) — the store responsible for the above sign — also was upbeat about Friday. This should hardly come as a surprise considering the trendy retailer’s popularity and stock’s 32% year-to-date gains.
Posters screamed about Urban’s one and only promotion for the day: Half off all sale merchandise. For URBN, Black Friday is just one piece of the holiday puzzle, though.
The company, aimed at a younger demographic, also has made today “College ID Wednesday.” Since so many college kids who are home for break tend to go out tonight, the store is offering 20% off customers’ entire purchase, the manager explained. On top of that, Urban is amping up direct sales on Cyber Monday with an online deal: Spend $75, get $15 off.
Even luxury retailer Michael Kors (NYSE:KORS) — which has been red-hot since its IPO — is gearing up for Black Friday, despite traditionally not being sales-oriented. No promotions were advertised in-store, but the manager explained his location would be holding a doorbuster event from midnight to 8 a.m. — news he had just gotten the green light to relay to shoppers.
This is the company’s second year doing the event. While Kors saw success last year, the manager expressed the importance of having a year under their belt.
“We know what to expect and how to better prepare and schedule employees,” he said.
Old Navy — owned by Gap Inc. (NYSE:GPS) — also had an advertisement for the coming days, but to my surprise, it didn’t focus on Black Friday. Instead, the store wanted shoppers to know that it was open until 5 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day, then would open up again at midnight for the rush.
The always-sale-happy retailer undoubtedly will be a hot spot.
Department stores like Nordstrom (NYSE:JWN) and Macy’s (NYSE:M) could fare especially well thanks to their ideal typical positioning as mall entrances and their wide variety of offerings — both qualities open them up to more impulse buys.
Speaking of location, Microsoft has been sneaking into malls. The company has opened holiday stores and kiosks — similar to mall-located Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) Stores. The one I passed had a central location and clean display that — even on a pretty dead weekday — had lured in several shoppers who were trying out the new Surface tablet.
Not all shoppers will take to the mall for their bargain-hunting, however. Big-box retailers are garnering lots of attention for their early openings. Walmart (NYSE:WMT), Sears (NASDAQ:SHLD), Kmart and Toys R Us will all open at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day, while Target‘s (NYSE:TGT) doors will unlock just an hour later.
You can get the lowdown on big-box deals here:
- Kohl’s Black Friday Bargains
- Target Doorbuster Deals
- Walmart Black Friday Deals
Or, for more about Black Friday, check out this great infographic from NerdWallet:
- Black Friday Cheat Sheet
All in all, there’s little sign of Black Friday in malls yet, but it’s safe to say that’s just the calm before the storm.
If you’re planning on braving the masses to get some markdowns, be prepared for an early start — and a tidal wave of eager shoppers.
As of this writing, Alyssa Oursler did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.