Kansas City shoppers headed out Friday to Zona Rosa in the Northland, the Legends, Oak Park Mall and other retail centers throughout the area to get an early start on holiday bargain hunting.
“I’m just looking for Christmas gifts, and stuff for myself,” Ladeja Holland said as she shopped at Zona Rosa. She was pleased that she had found a dress for $3 at Forever 21 to give to a relative.
Sisters Alex and Gabby Sweeney of Kansas City started out at 7:30 a.m. at Sam’s Club to buy something for their mother but then headed to Zona Rosa because Old Navy had everything 50 percent off in the store, and Charlotte Russe had many items for $20 or less.
Laura Crawford of Kansas City and relatives visiting from Columbia started their day at 5:30 a.m., taking advantage of sales at Target and Kohls. Next they were heading to Justice in Zona Rosa for a 50 percent off sale before 10 a.m.
Some people had lined up outside Best Buy stores and other retailers on Thanksgiving evening. Many retailers, however, dispensed with the recent trend of Thanksgiving Day sales and gave their employees the day off.
Still, retailers were prepped and ready for crowds Friday. Shortly before noon, the parking lot was full at Independence Center.
Just outside Independence Center’s Bath & Body Works store, Maggie Ridge and her daughters, Rachel and Jessica, of Pleasant Hill were leaning against the wall, getting their second wind. They had been on a shopping spree since 11 p.m. Thursday, hitting Wal-Mart, Target and other chains.
“We’re tired,” Maggie Ridge said, adding that they weren’t nearly finished Christmas shopping for their family of 13.
They had waited in a long line to get into Bass Pro at 5 a.m. but were pleased with the deals they found on kids pajamas.
They had also spent an hour at Pink in Independence Center.
Pink manager Haley Carpenter said her store, a Victoria’s Secret lingerie line aimed at the college set, had been jammed with customers late Thursday until 1 a.m. Friday and again after the store reopened at 6 a.m.
Carpenter agreed that the trend among many shoppers is to browse online. But she said many online deals sell out quickly, so the best option is to head to the brick-and-mortar stores.
Locally, retailers in the Historic West Bottoms that are normally only open on First Friday weekends have decided to open for this additional weekend to meet growing demand for their vintage and antique goods.
The National Retail Federation expects holiday sales to rise 3.6 percent for November and December, better than the 3 percent growth last year. The group estimates that nonstore sales should rise 7 to 10 percent.
This weekend is crucial to set the tone for the season. Around 137 million people could do their shopping during the Thanksgiving weekend, according to a survey for the NRF. That includes online and store shopping. Black Friday vies with the Saturday before Christmas as the busiest shopping day of the year.
Still, some reports indicated Friday traffic at some malls nationally might be slower than last year, as retailers spread deals over the week.
“It was a really good start. But I have never seen Black Friday morning so calm,” said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst at NPD Group, a market research firm.
Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which started its sales on Thanksgiving at 6 p.m., said shoppers were embracing technology products. Steve Bratspies, chief merchandising officer at the U.S. division, said in addition to favorites like televisions and toys, they were looking for drones, virtual reality products and hoverboards.
In the shopping centers around Oak Park mall in Overland Park, stores stayed busy Friday afternoon, though managers had mostly put away the metal barricades used to corral early-morning lines outside the front doors.
And while retailers advertised a variety of Black Friday sales, some hot items weren’t available and may not be until later in December.
At the nearby Toys R Us, employees said the store has lately received about 50 phone calls a day from people asking about the NES Classic Edition, a replica of the Nintendo video game system first sold in 1983.
The new version has been out of stock since Nov. 11, when it sold out in a single day. The store is waiting to receive more, but that could take weeks.
The same was true of Hatchimals, an interactive toy creature that “hatches” out of a soft egg.
Fortunately for shoppers Hillary Frego and Faith Lee, the store had plenty of other toys. The only item the sisters-in-law failed to find was a Minnie Mouse night light.
The pair, who were shopping for six children between them, said they had little trouble with crowds.
“It’s not really that bad, I don’t think,” said Frego of Raymore. “Of course it’s fun — it’s for the kids.”
Among those hoping for a big shopping weekend are hundreds of small businesses in the area looking forward to Small Business Saturday.
The shopping holiday, which encourages people to buy at small retailers, is a big event for the owners of Stuff, an art and gift store at 316 W. 63rd St. in Brookside. Saturday can offer a welcome change for shoppers tired from navigating big box stores on Black Friday, co-owner Casey Simmons said.
“It’s a wonderful mind shift,” Simmons said. “When you shop small, you are influencing people on an individual basis.”
To mark the occasion Saturday, Stuff will host an artist in the store who will handpaint personalized holiday ornaments for customers while they shop.
The artist, Kevin Kloppenburg, makes the ornaments from cotton pulp in antique chocolate molds. He will be at Stuff all day Saturday, Simmons said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.