Thanks to the boom in online shopping, and the fact that shoppers are spreading their holiday spending out throughout the year, Black Friday is not quite the post-Thanksgiving, shopper stampeding frenzy it once was.
And last year in Charlotte, Black Friday was noticeably subdued in five area malls I visited. But Christmastime is still the biggest shopping period of the year.
Nearly six in 10 Americans plan to or are considering shopping over Thanksgiving weekend, the National Retail Federation says. Retail sales in November and December – not including spending on cars, gas and restaurants – will rise 3.6 percent to $655.8 billion, the group says. That would be a more robust growth than last year, when holiday sales rose 3 percent.
In the Charlotte area, retailers are doing all they can to lure customers in early to loosen up their purse strings.
From opening earlier to giving away gift cards for a month, here are several ways shoppers will see area retailers getting creative this season:
SouthPark Mall and Concord Mills both recently completed significant renovation projects, so this year both got new holiday décor to compliment their upgrades, said a spokeswoman for Simon Malls, which owns the two shopping centers.
SouthPark Mall shoppers probably recall the public outcry last year over the glacier holiday display last year, an unconventional idea SouthPark Mall later said was a mistake before switching back to its traditional tree. The mall’s upgraded décor includes a sparkly new tree, twinkling hanging stars, LED gift boxes and more – all put up before Halloween this year.
Similarly, Concord Mills’ new decorations include twinkling white LED lights, new garlands and festive colorful ornaments.
Belk after pie?
You can now shop at Belk earlier than ever on Thanksgiving. The Charlotte-based department store chain opens its doors at 4 p.m. this Thursday, two hours earlier than it opened on Thanksgiving last year.
“Thanksgiving has traditionally been a holiday centered around good food, family and friends. Over the years that tradition has evolved into one that includes shopping and other activities that families enjoy together outside of the home,” spokeswoman Jessica Graham said.
Belk competitor Macy’s opens at 5 p.m. on Thanksgiving. Nordstrom and Dillard’s say they will remain closed that day.
For the first time, Northlake Mall is having a month-long “gift-a-day” promotion starting Thanksgiving Day. Shoppers can enter to win daily prizes valued from $50 to $500, including a Kate Spade handbag and an Apple Watch Sport, the mall’s management has said. Those interested can enter by texting 60867.
Northlake also said it will reward shoppers who sign up for its rewards program this Friday through Sunday. For the first time, shoppers receive $20 back on their first purchase of $20 or more.
“We know consumers have many choices for holiday shopping, and we want to thank our loyal customers for choosing Northlake Mall,” said Sherri Chisolm-Whiteside, the mall’s marketing director.
Also at Northlake, Amazon has installed lockers near the children’s play area where customers can pick up their online orders. Retailers who have Amazon lockers say it provides a safe spot for deliveries, but it also increases foot traffic.
Closed on Thanksgiving
While some retailers like Belk are opting to open earlier on Thanksgiving, Eastridge Mall in Gastonia has said for the first time, it will remain closed on Thanksgiving Day (except for two of its three department stores.)
“After meeting with tenants, and looking at trends across the country, with careful consideration we decided it was beneficial. Give folks time with their families, and blow it out on Black Friday,” said Cindee Joye, the mall’s marketing director.
Citing family time for their employees, other national retailers say they will stay closed on Thanksgiving. REI also said it will remain closed on Black Friday to encourage customers to spend time “outside with family and friends.”
For the second year, South End is hosting over 100 local vendors at pop-up markets along South Boulevard. The day-long event on this weekend’s Small Business Saturday will feature free trolley rides, craft beer and food trucks.
Also again this year, Foundation for the Carolinas will be home to a pop-up market from Nov. 28-Dec. 3. Participating retailers include local ones, such as Mallory’s Candles, as well as national ones like Kendra Scott.
Thanksgiving and Black Friday hours at Charlotte-area malls:
▪ SouthPark mall: 6 p.m. Thursday to 1 a.m.; 6 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday
▪ Concord Mills: 6 p.m. Thursday through 9:30 p.m. Friday.
▪ Charlotte Premium Outlets: 6 p.m. Thursday through 10 p.m. Friday.
▪ Carolina Place Mall: 6 p.m.-midnight Thursday; 6 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday
▪ Eastridge Mall: Closed Thursday; open 6 a.m. -10 p.m. Friday.
▪ Monroe Crossing: 6 p.m.-midnight Thursday; 6 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday
▪ Rock Hill Galleria: 4 p.m.-1 a.m. Thursday; 7 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday.
▪ Northlake Mall: 6 p.m.-midnight Thursday; 6 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday