This story was reported by Tory N. Parrish, Lisa Irizarry and Victor Ocasio. It was written by Jonathan LaMantia.
Long Islanders started hunting for deals early on Black Friday and crowded parking lots into the afternoon, continuing the tradition of the unofficial start to the holiday shopping season even as more consumers have shifted to purchasing online.
Some shoppers who spoke to Newsday lined up before dawn in Westbury, came out with more than they bargained for in Huntington Station and jostled for parking spaces in Riverhead, despite the toll inflation has taken on locals' budgets over the past two years.
National retail spending growth is expected to be nominal, between 3% and 3.5% during the quarter, October to December, compared with the same period last year. Adjusted for inflation, that's just 1% to 1.5%, and most of that will be driven by online spending, according to Coresight Research, a Manhattan-based retail analysis provider.
The Black Friday shopping tradition has been diminished as more retailers begin offering deals in October and early November. But Long Islanders appeared ready to spend at shopping malls around the region.
WHAT TO KNOW
- Black Friday shoppers turned out across Long Island looking for deals.
- Foot traffic was steady at most locations while some, including Tanger Outlets Riverhead, were especially crowded.
- Online shopping is expected to account for the biggest spending increases this year.
The roadways into and throughout Tanger Outlets Riverhead were choked with cars looking for parking early Friday afternoon.
Families, couples and groups of tweens made their way through the often crowded sidewalks of the outdoor shopping center. Many stood in queues for retailers like Nike, Ugg and Michael Kors as the lunch hour came and went.
"It's been crazy out of the gate," Lesley Anthony, marketing director for Tanger Outlets Riverhead said Friday afternoon. "Cars came in steadily since 6 o'clock, and we've had full parking lots since mid-morning."
Shoppers Ralph Ferrante and his wife Nancy, of East Quogue, said they parked in the back where employees normally park to find a spot a little before 11 a.m.
Ferrante, 68, who normally does his shopping the day after the annual sales holiday, said he was surprised at how good the deals were given broader talk about higher consumer costs.
“It’s 40% to 50% off at some of these stores,” he said. “You come to buy one thing, you end up buying more.”
Early birds hunt for deals
In Westbury, Jenna Ames, 22, didn’t even bother changing out of her pajamas before heading to Walmart for some early-morning Christmas shopping with her mother, Katie Andres, 57.
The two came from their Floral Park home with Christmas lists of items requested by family members and they were off to a good start, paring down the list by shortly before 7 a.m.
"I got my granddaughter a comforter set, leggings and a bracelet … we do this every year — shop early for the sales," Andres, a front end manager at Stop & Shop in Bayside, said. "Everything is usually so expensive. We have more than 30 gifts to buy."
Ames, who works at Chipotle in Mineola, bought Christmas pajamas and a blanket for herself and some plush mats for her guinea pig cage.
"It's fun doing this every year," Ames said. "I get to shop with my mom."
About 50 people were in line by 5:50 a.m. to get into Walmart for its 6 a.m. opening.
Matthew LeBlanc, 23, of Woodmere, had been there since 3:30 a.m. with his friend Arianna Paxinos, 24, of Lynbrook. They were following a tradition LeBlanc started with his mother, father and sister years ago — doing holiday shopping in the wee hours of the morning.
"It's fun shopping like this," said LeBlanc, an accountant. "My family and I used to have Thanksgiving dinner and then after dessert we'd go to the [Roosevelt Field] mall at midnight." He added, "JCPenney used to give out snow globes on Black Friday if you got there early."
Before heading to Walmart, LeBlanc and Paxinos, a student at Hunter College, had bagels at the 24-hour Bagel Boss in Hewlett.
"We're making a day of it," LeBlanc said.
He planned to buy a PlayStation 5 for himself but emerged from the store about 40 minutes later without it. He had learned about a deal at Best Buy that bundled the console and Spider-Man 2 game for $499, saving him $25.
Instead, LeBlanc was carrying a Canon printer he got for $40 that he said was originally about $50. Paxinos was carrying Squishmallows plush toys she bought for $5 and a lava lamp she got on sale for $10.
LeBlanc said inflation wasn't really factoring into his shopping plans because he saves money for Christmas.
"You just budget throughout the year," LeBlanc said.
'A different vibe'
At Roosevelt Field in Garden City, dozens of people were on line outside Newbury Comics at 8 a.m. waiting to get into the store, which sells a mix of vinyl albums, manga and Funko merchandise, and apparel.
Emma Grady, 19, a Farmingdale resident and receptionist at Quinnipiac University, got to the mall at 6 a.m., which she said has become her annual Black Friday "ritual." She shopped at Aerie and Aeropostale with her sister, Faith, 21, a tour guide at St. John's University.
"Shopping this early is like a different vibe than shopping throughout the day. It's more of a fun thing to do," Emma Grady said. "It's also different because it's right after Thanksgiving, so it's like the start of the holidays and it puts you in the Christmas spirit."
Foot traffic was semi-busy at stores and malls on Long Island on Friday, but many consumers were just browsing and making price comparisons instead of actually buying merchandise, said Marshal Cohen, chief retail analyst based in the Port Washington office of Circana, a Chicago-based consumer research firm.
“It didn’t look like Black Friday to me. I mean I’ve been doing this for 30 years,” he said.
There are some bright spots for retailers, he said.
Beauty products, video game consoles and headphones are selling well, he said.
Also, stores popular with teens, such as Abercrombie & Fitch and Old Navy, are offering the best deals, he said.
Laura Litz, 59, a child care worker who lives in Jericho, was at the mall with her daughters, Brandi Litz, 24, and Taylor Adamo, also 24. Early-morning Black Friday shopping is a tradition in their family too. They bought makeup at Sephora and a haul of clothes from Aritzia and Loft.
Adamo, who is studying to become a physician assistant, said the trio prefers to shop at the mall instead of online. "You get to try things on and you don't have to return it," she said.
Weak October sales
Nationwide, October retail sales were weak, a sign consumers could pull back on holiday spending because of concerns over high inflation and interest rates, and the lifting in September of the three-year moratorium on federal student loan repayments, retail analysts said.
Plus, the boost in consumer spending on goods because of federal stimulus checks and people being stuck at home during the three-year COVID-19 pandemic has faded.
“People will come out and buy things [this weekend], but they don’t have the money to splash out like they used to. Lower-income consumers are really hard-pressed. Groceries are costing them a fortune,” said Neil Saunders, managing director of retail at Manhattan-based market research firm GlobalData.
The retailers that will fare the best this season are discounters, but department stores will struggle, he said.
“I just think the deals aren’t really strong enough. They sell a lot of apparel, and I don’t think consumers are interested in apparel right now,” Saunders said.
The biggest spending increases are happening online.
Consumers spent $5.6 billion online Thursday, which was 5.5% more than was spent on the Thanksgiving holiday last year, according to Adobe Analytics. Adobe projected online shopping on Black Friday would generate $9.6 billion in sales, up 5.7% compared with last year.
Deals as good as last year?
At Walt Whitman Shops in Huntington Station, there was a steady stream of shoppers by 9:30 a.m. as holiday music played from the overhead speakers.
Several stores were bustling with shoppers, including Sephora, Apple and Lululemon.
Laura Encarnacion, 44, and her two daughters, 12 and 16, came to the mall for one pair of pants for the younger girl, they said.
Things didn't go as planned because by 9:30 a.m., the trio had spent about $800 on purchases at Bath & Body Works, Lululemon, Sephora and other stores, the Bayville residents said.
"We had good deals," Encarnacion said.
Several shoppers snapped up deals on appliances and electronics Friday morning at Best Buy in Huntington Station. South Huntington residents Luis and Lorena Diaz, pushing their two sons, 2 years old and 10 months old, in strollers, bought a Dyson vacuum for $549, saving $200 off the regular price.
Andrew Lazar, of Delray Beach, Florida, was one of several people leaving Best Buy with a new printer Friday morning. Lazar, whose adult children live in Melville and Westchester County, bought an HP printer for $199, a $60 savings, for one of his children.
The “deals are pretty good. Sales are nice. … We’re doing a whole lot of shopping,” he said of his family.
Others were nostalgic for past years with steeper discounts. Brooklyn resident Lilly Schwab, who was at Walt Whitman Shops Friday, said Black Friday shopping isn't what it used to be.
"The sales used to be better. They used to give things away," she said.