Retailers, consumers and prices
Black Friday: Even bankers must shop on a budget
In Charlotte, North Carolina, the banking capital of the New South, Black Friday’s traditional retail flood was a relative trickle, thanks to residue from the recession. Several Black Friday shoppers said the economic downturn and the plight of the local banks would play a major role in how the city’s residents spent during the holidays.
“We’re spending very differently than we ever have, and I don’t see that changing for a long time,” said Rob Seidman, 39, a Charlotte resident and a banker. He declined to say which bank he worked for, only to say it “employed thousands here.”
The signs of the downturn were most evident in hallways of the South Park Mall in the city’s tony neighborhood of the same name, home to more than a few of Charlotte’s bankers. The mall opened at 8 a.m., just like last year and three hours later than it did in 2007. Few shoppers were there to bolt inside. Many shoppers who arrived later said they had spent the morning’s earliest hours fighting lines and crowds at discount retailers, like Target and Walmart, noting those stores were busier than they had ever seen them as shoppers sought bargains.
Charlotte resident Don Smith, 49, came to the mall to buy some running shoes on sale, along with a few other items with his wife and two young daughters.
“This is the second time I’ve been out on Black Friday,” he said. “I hate to shop this way, but there’s no crowds this morning. It’s a great day if you ask me.”
A spokeswoman said the mall expected 200,000 visitors on today, a significant chunk of the 12million to 13 million who visit each year.
Several shoppers interviewed by Reuters said they were merely window shopping. Mall patrons walking around laden with bags were dwarfed by those walking around empty-handed. Seidman, sitting near one of the few hubs of activity — the Apple Store — said he was out shopping primarily to replace a broken family computer. While his wife was doing more holiday shopping, he was done for the day.
He said he and his family scrapped holiday vacation plans this year, were spending less on gifts for kids and adults and more closely adhering to a pre-determined budget. While he’s still employed, the downturn has changed his spending habits forever, he said, as he’s seen friends lose their jobs and in some cases their homes.
He’s aggressively saving for retirement and squirreling away cash, rather than spending more as he did in the past, “because I’ve seen how some people in my neighborhood and who I work with lose it all so fast.”
“Mine thankfully is an issue of psychology rather than an issue of need,” he added, noting layoffs in the sector made him fear the worst and curb much of his spending. “I feel like I need more of a cushion in case something happens.”
(Photo: Shadows gather over Charlotte, North Carolina. Reuters)