Black Friday looked more like a rich shade of money green at the Gilroy Premium Outlets’ “Midnight Madness” event Thursday evening.
With hot coffee in hand and holiday music playing outside each store, the excitement and energy kicked off early for hundreds of shoppers who stood in line as early as 8 p.m. Thanksgiving night.
After the weekend, Jane Howard with the Gilroy Welcome Center – which is located in the Gilroy Outlets – reflected on the weekend crowds, remarking, “I worked at the Outlets’ Welcome Center Friday and Saturday over the Black Friday Weekend and it was swamped! We seemed to have much more overflow parking and shoppers than last year. I had more than 100 people come through the Welcome Center on Saturday alone – which is tremendous!”
Even with the massive crowds, Howard doesn’t recall any disgruntled or complaining customers. All of the weekend shoppers seemed to be having a great time, she noted.
Some of the Outlet stores opened as early as 9 p.m. Thursday, catering to patrons such as Kyle Robinson and her friend Jasmin Booker. The pair hopped in the car and drove an hour to the Gilroy Outlets from San Carlos shortly after polishing off their Thanksgiving meals.
The friends had seemingly alphabetical, strategic game plans ready to take advantage of the Outlet’s pre-Black Friday sales.
“First to Aldo, then American Apparel, then on to Bath & Body Works,” Booker said.
Banana Republic employee Braden Donovan got dropped off at 9 p.m. Thursday for his upcoming midnight shift.
“They told us to try to get a ride, if possible, and not to try to drive to work because of parking tonight,” Donovan said.
When asked if he thought there might be a lull in the shopping activity overnight, Donovan shook his head and laughed.
“No way, it’s crazy here all the way until we close on Friday.”
Director Pam Goodfellow with BIGinsight Consumer Insights notes that “the days of waking up Thanksgiving morning to find out what retailers’ Black Friday promotions will be has transitioned into an ongoing dialogue between companies and their customers starting days in advance through sites like Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest, company blogs, emails and mobile apps. Consumers can connect with their favorite retailers like never before.”
The world’s largest retail trade association, the National Retail Federation, estimates that holiday sales for 2012 will increase 4.1 percent this year to $586 billion. According to the NRF, up to 147 million shoppers were expected to visit stores and shop online over the course of Black Friday weekend. The final number rounded off at whopping 247 million shoppers, up from 226 million last year.
The most popular gift choices are clothing and clothing accessories. Nearly 59.7 percent of consumers will splurge on fashion and apparel items and other accessories, according to a 2012 NRF survey.
NRF estimates also predict that approximately 59.2 percent of shoppers will buy gift cards, which are also the most requested gift item this year.
“Children will also benefit this holiday season – 45.1 percent of people say they will buy toys,” states the NRF. “Additionally, 22.5 percent of shoppers will go the extra mile and surprise someone special with jewelry, the highest amount since 2007.”
Gilroy City Manager Tom Haglund is very optimistic about the expectations for Gilroy’s sales tax revenue for the Oct. 1 – Dec. 31 quarter, especially with the Premium Outlet’s Black Friday Midnight Madness event.
“Revenue has been lower in recent years compared to pre-2008 levels, but the Gilroy Outlets have had a very aggressive advertising campaign,” Haglund said. “Clearly, locally and nationally, the holiday season is critical for retailers, and Gilroy is no different”.
It’s also critical for hardcore shoppers like Gilroyan Velva Childress. She bypassed the tryptophan-induced couch coma in order to be one of the first in line for the early opening at Juicy Couture Thursday.
“I went to the Outlets’ website and previewed most of what would be on sale before I got here. My plan is to grab everything in sight right away, and decide what I want just before I check out,” she said with the confidence of a seasoned Black Friday shopper.
Leandro Gazola, who is visiting from Brazil, decided to check out what Black Friday is all about … on Thanksgiving night.
“We have nothing like this in Brazil” Gazola commented. “We plan to stay and shop here until 3 a.m. or so.”
When asked why he decided to brave the Outlets Thursday night instead of on the infamous Black Friday morning, Gazola speculated that “everything will gone by Friday!”
City of Gilroy’s Public Information Officer, Joe Kline, reports that the Gilroy Premium Outlets’ last quarter sales tax revenue for 2010 went up 8.9 percent from its 2009 last quarter figures, and up yet again at 12.6 percent for 2011 compared to the last quarter of 2010.
According to Gilroy Target store manager Lydia Emms, “We had a much more successful Black Friday weekend with higher sales and bigger crowds compared to last year – all without one guest issue or problem reported.”
Oddly enough, the same could not be said for the Gilroy Kohls this year. According to Ken Ermita, the store manager of the Kohls on Camino Arroyo, “it really was about the same as it was last year, from what I experienced.”
The traffic flow was well-managed in the parking lots for the Outlets throughout the Midnight Madness event. All through Black Friday morning, consumers were exiting stores smiling and carrying several shopping bags on each arm.
Americans, for that matter, are no strangers to appending the adjective “black” to a decidedly troubled day of the week.
Oct. 29, 1929 was named “Black Tuesday” to mark the historic beginning of the Great Depression. The label “Black Monday” was slapped on Oct. 19, 1987, in memory of when the stock market experienced its biggest decline since the Great Depression.
The first “Black Friday” dates back to when stock market men Jay Gould and James Fisk caused the collapse of the gold market in September of 1869 in an ill-conceived attempt to corner it.
Given the dark context of its origins, Black Friday has no doubt become something of a misnomer.
• $59.1 billion: Total spending between Thanksgiving evening and Black Friday weekend.
• 35 million: Americans who visited retail stores and websites Thursday, up by 29 million.
• 247 million: The record number of shoppers who visited stores and websites over Black Friday weekend, up from 226 million.
• $423: Average amount of money each shopper spent this weekend, up from $398.
• 28 percent: Shoppers who were lined up at stores by midnight on Black Friday, compared to 24.4 percent last year.
Source: National Retail Federation