Retailers, consumers and prices
Wal-Mart shows its strength on Black Friday
Early bird buyers with shopping carts stuffed with toys, electronics and clothes stood 10 deep in checkout lines and the parking lot was packed with cars at 7:30 in the morning. In Valley Stream, Long Island, the crush turned tragic when a temp worker was killed by the crowd surging through a Wal-Mart’s doors.
The Friday after Thanksgiving, known as Black Friday, kicks off the Christmas shopping season and marks what is traditionally the busiest retail day of the year. But what began to emerge from shoppers’ stories was that even if they were willing to look for deals elsewhere, they kept coming back to Wal-Mart.
Marathon shoppers April Richards, 26, and her mom, Diana Eichhorn, 49, started their holiday gift hunt at the Thanksgiving Day sale at Kmart, which was out of the pajamas they hoped to buy. From there they went to Arundel Mills, that features outlet and discount stores, at midnight. They also stopped by Kohl’s at 4 a.m.
But at Wal-Mart they found deals on everything from a sewing machine to $8 jeans and $4 pajamas. The duo said the store’s discounts were so good that they bought jeans and other items that they normally would have purchased elsewhere.
Wal-mart is expected to be one of the few companies to prosper this holiday shopping season, which is feared to be the weakest since the early 1990s as a credit freeze and home price implosion hit consumers’ wallets.
In Oakland, California, shoppers who lined up in the darkness to be first to get their hands on deals when the store opened at 5 a.m. sprinted for the electronics and computer departments.
Back in Maryland, Adel Beshai, 42, said he arrived at a Wal-Mart at 6:30 in the morning knowing that he could get a low price on a flat-screen television. He walked out with a 50-inch Samsung for a little less than $900.
Beshai, who lost his carpentry job about a year ago and now drives a taxi, said he is not trimming his holiday budget. He still plans to take his four children to the stores to pick out what they want for gifts.
“It’s our life,” Beshai said. “We cannot die because the economy is down.”
The scene was more subdued across the street at Target, where the registers were not as busy ringing up sales and few lines had more than two people waiting.
Still, the store’s electronics department was busy.
In the Target parking lot, Alice Hughes, 45, said her purchases included an $89 digital camera.
Hughes said she was expecting to see more people at Target. “They need more people to be out so they will probably lower prices,” she said.
In addition to buying the treadmill at Sears, Hughes bought a 32-inch flat screen TV.
At JCPenney, she bought a $60 coat for herself and a $30 leather coat for her daughter.
Still, Hughes said she was not overly impressed with the prices.
Jamal Bullock, 30, has already learned that lesson.
In the Target parking lot after buying a stand for his new television, Bullock said he was headed to Best Buy later in the afternoon to get a refund after the flat-screen TV he bought last week for $1,499. Its price has already fallen to $1,299.