Black Friday’s super deals still drew consumers in the wee hours and had them waiting in long lines in the drizzling rain to be the first in the stores.
But other shoppers, like Kathy Powers of St. Joseph, had a less stressful plan.
Powers hit Overland Park’s Oak Park Mall about 9 a.m. Friday, when she didn’t have to fight for a parking space or wait in lines to get into the stores or get through checkout. An hour later she had loaded her shopping bags with gifts, most purchased at big discounts.
“They are having a lot of wonderful sales, they have plenty of help in the stores and everyone is so nice,” Powers said. “It’s been really fun.”
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To be sure, Black Friday is still big. More than half of the 1,000 shoppers recently responding to a Consumer Reports survey said they planned to shop on Black Friday, an increase of 31 percent from 2014. But reports from around Kansas City — and across the country — indicated that Black Friday is losing some of its frenzy as sales are rolled out earlier in the month and more shopping is done online.
The Northland’s Zona Rosa also has its Orange Wednesday evening of deals on the day before Thanksgiving, and some other area malls opened Thanksgiving evening, with some retailers staying open through Black Friday.
Without any standout must-have items this year, consumers also don’t have as much “get it before it’s gone” pressure.
On Friday, parking was no problem at Independence Center as late at 9 a.m., and the food court and walkways were quiet inside.
“There’s not been anybody out. It’s dead,” said Julie Lafferty of Orrick, Mo., who shopped at the center in the morning with friends.
The weather kept Kate McCann and her friends from hitting stores at 6 a.m. as they originally planned, though they were out by 7:30 a.m.
By 10 a.m., the parking lot at Independence Center was filling, as was the mall.
“The expanded hours allow shoppers to choose what hours work best for them,” said Jessica Kinsey, director of marketing and business development for Independence Center.
But regular Black Friday shopper Christina Williams of Grandview said the traditional shopping day had lost some of its anticipation. That is partly because she spent hours at Wal-Mart on Thanksgiving Day, the last two waiting for a laptop computer deal to kick off. But budgets dictate that Williams not miss those big deals, even if stores shift their hours.
“Now that the kids are in their teens, the $20 toy isn’t always enough,” she said.
Stores’ expanded Black Friday calendars have changed the early-bird habits of Ann and Amanda Benjamin and Nicole Downing. They didn’t hit their first store until 8:45 a.m., worrying less about getting in on the season’s door crashing and deal busting.
“We really don’t, now that it starts on Thursday,” Ann Benjamin said.
Black Friday sales earlier in the week and icy roads may have kept a lot of shoppers away from the sales at Zona Rosa.
But not Kaylin and Kylie Campbell, sisters who rode with their mother from Cameron, Mo., to Kansas City, North, to catch deals on gifts for themselves, friends and family. The sisters split from their mom to keep gifts secret. The three had left home at 6:30 a.m. and by 10 a.m. had already been in about four stores in the area.
“We only found a line outside the Forever 21 around 8 a.m.,” Kaylin said. “Other than that, it’s been pretty calm today.”
The same sentiment was expressed by others at the Northland shopping center, including sisters Laetitia and Lakesha Acker of Kansas City, who started shopping elsewhere on Thanksgiving evening.
What was that like?
“It was crazy,” Lakesha said. “Lots of long lines. And there were people everywhere.”
But the deals were worth it, such as the 32-inch flat-screen TV the girls were most proud to have scored for $125.
For the most part, the streets throughout the shopping center were free of pedestrians, except for those scurrying in the freezing temperatures from a car into a store or from store to store.
Tammy Alspough and her daughter, Tomi Simmon of Polo, Mo., each walked against the wind with their hands wrapped around a warm cup of coffee. The two of them along with Simmon’s daughter, Gage Simmon, and a friend, Emily Smite, had a plan.
It was 9:30 a.m. by the time the team made the 45-minute drive to Zona Rosa.
“We haven’t run into any real crowds anywhere,” Alspough said.
For many, Black Friday shopping is a family tradition.
Katie Johnson of Overland Park — along with her sister, Amanda Connealy of Olathe; her mother, Dana Lewis of Lenexa; and her mother-in-law, Connie Johnson of Fowler, Ill. — hit the stores about 6 a.m. Friday, and four hours later they plopped down on the floor near Oak Park Mall’s J.C. Penney to fuel up on drinks and snacks before heading out again. The family didn’t plan to stop shopping until late in the evening. Deals such as 60 percent off at The Limited kept them going.
Now that the season is in full swing, retailers will do their best to get shoppers’ money.
IHS Global Insight predicts sales to total nearly $630 billion, up 3.5 percent from last year. The research group expects the uptick thanks to a “sizable increase in wages” in October and shoppers waiting for the holiday deals. Other analysts said low gas prices should help fuel holiday spending.
The Star’s Mark Davis and Mará Rose Williams contributed to this report.