Black Friday comes early

Hundreds await 10 p.m. Tanger opening Thursday night
Thanksgiving night shoppers take advantage of deep discounts at Tanger Outlet stores. BY RON MACARTHUR
December 3, 2013

It wasn't Friday, but it was black because it was 10 p.m.

About 100 people stood in line Thanksgiving night to get in the doors of the Sony store in the Tanger Outlets Midway center. Another 50 or so shoppers were queuing at the nearby Coach store.

Wrapped up for the cold, Ann Kristal of Jacksonville, Fla., and her friend, Jean Fleischman of Rehoboth Beach, stood in line about an hour with the goal of purchasing a Blue-ray player and digital camera advertised at 40 percent off.

Sony and Coach policed the number of shoppers allowed in the store at one time to stay away from those all too familiar mad dashes for hot deals.

It was all part of the outlets' Moonlight Madness to extend Black Friday hours backward into Thanksgiving evening. All of Tanger's 132 stores were open for the event.

The outlets have joined a national trend of store openings on Thanksgiving night. While several stores opened with the smell of turkey still hanging in the air – Walmart opened at 6 p.m. – Tanger Outlets didn't open until 10 p.m. and stayed open until the following night at 9 p.m.

To Kristal, Black Friday shopping is like a competition. “I'm really into sports, so I look at this as trying to win the prize,” Kristal said. “And there is no sales tax here.”

Looking for deals along Route 1

About 100,000 shoppers scoped out Black Friday weekend deals at outlet stores along the Route 1 corridor, said general manager Amy Norgate. “It was a wonderful weekend for us,” she said, adding sales were brisk from 10 p.m. Thursday until around 2 a.m. Friday with crowds returning at 6 a.m.

The decision to open Thanksgiving night for the third year in a row was Tanger's response to its store owners' requests for longer hours, she said.

Norgate said Black Friday weekend shoppers are among the most organized of the year. “They have their lists, and they are very smart with their money,” she said.

With fewer shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year, Norgate said many retailers had good deals prior to Black Friday weekend.

More than 500 shoppers from Baltimore, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., poured out of 13 buses for Black Friday shopping at the outlets. “They were focused on tax-free shopping,” Norgate said. “This is our most popular motor coach weekend.”

While holiday sales are important to the bottom lines of outlet stores, sales in the peak tourist summer months of July and August are equally as important, Norgate said.

Nationwide sales up 2.3 percent

It was all about the deals: Walmart had 32-inch HDTVs for $98; Peebles offered gift cards up to $100 to the first 50 customers; and Lowe's and Home Depot slashed some tools by half.

Nationwide, sales for Thursday and Friday totaled $12.3 billion, up 2.3 percent from 2012, according to ShopperTrak. But, nationwide sales for Black Friday were down 13 percent from 2012 because more shoppers took advantage of sales on Thanksgiving, according to ShopperTrak.

For the entire four-day shopping weekend, sales were down slightly from $59.1 billion in 2012 to $57.4 billion this year, according to the National Retail Federation. However, the group predicts that holiday shoppers will spend $602 billion this season, a 4-percent increase from last year.

And for those who missed out on Black Friday deals, Cyber Monday offered another chance.