Long Islanders are headed to the malls on Black Friday, hunting for deals on what is historically the busiest shopping day of the year.
Some shoppers and retail officials said the crowds seem bigger this year.
Kelly Lambert, 37, of West Islip, who was shopping at Westfield South Shore mall in Bay Shore, said she found the mall a lot busier than last year.
“I think it may be because some of the stores didn’t stay open all night,” she said.
Lambert said though she believes she can find the same deals online, she prefers shopping for Christmas at the mall “because it’s festive and fun.”
“I’ll probably spend about $500 and that won’t even cut halfway through my Christmas list,” she said. “Some discounts are just not that great.”
Lambert did, however, snag a plush Mario Kart book bag for her 5-year-old son.
“He’s going to love this,” she said.
Nationally, about 115 million consumers are expected to shop at stores or online on Friday, according to a National Retail Federation survey.
Online shopping has grown in popularity, giving consumers an alternative to going to the store. Adobe Systems Inc., based in San Jose, California, said Friday that, as of 10 a.m., online spending on Black Friday had reached $640 million, an increase of 18 percent from a year earlier.
But many on Long Island still went shopping the old-fashioned way on Friday.
At Westfield South Shore mall, Norbis Morales, 18, of Oceanside, had his hands full with two 5-foot-tall teddy bears.
“It’s my little sister’s birthday in a couple of days,” he said. “She’s turning 5 years old and I wanted to surprise her.”
He was at the mall shopping with his cousins, Yuberki Peralta, 13, and Franyeli Peralta, 9.
“I’m saving $10 off each bear,” he said, adding the stuffed animalswere down to $20 from an original $30.
Joanne Rodgers of Deer Park and her daughter, Brittany, planned an all-day Black Friday shopping experience.
It started at Tanger Outlets in Deer Park, but they also expected to go to Walt Whitman Shops in Huntington Station and the Target in Bay Shore, before returning to Tanger for a dinner and movie.
“This is just phase one,” Rodgers said, adding that they’ll shop for about 20 people today.
“My husband is the hardest person to shop for, because there is no wowing him,” she said. “So I stopped trying.”
Amadeo Martinez of Deer Park, who was at Tanger in Deer Park at around 8 a.m., expressed enthusiasm for Black Friday.
“Everyone gets excited, and I think everyone is shopping today,” he said. “When I have a break and have a day off, I might as well go shopping. There is no better place to be today than a mall.”
Martinez said he expects to spend more this year, because economically “things are getting much better.”
He was shopping for himself on Black Friday.
“I need boots for the winter,” he said.
The Long Island economy is doing well, which should bolster shopping for retailers here, John A. Rizzo, chief economist for the Long Island Association, said in a recent interview.
Sarah Brown, 23, a saleswoman at the Perfume Point kiosk at Green Acres Mall in Valley Stream, estimated that the early crowds were big enough that, by the afternoon, the mall “is going to be packed.”
Black Friday is the height of the retail season, the Far Rockaway resident said. “I love it. This is what we wait for.”
Shoppers appeared to be numerous, said Vanessa Mitton, marketing director at Westfield South Shore mall. “Based on what I’ve seen this morning, the traffic in the mall today is definitely heavier than normal Black Friday mornings at this time,” she said. “I’ve gotten great feedback from most retailers saying combined sales from last night and this morning have already surpassed last year’s.”
She attributed the increase in traffic to added amenities offered by the mall, such as an “answers on the spot” program in which guests can send in requests for information and receive answers via text; a mall app that lets customers search for specific items, for instance a red sweater, and gives them an instant list of retailers carrying that item; and in-store only discounts.
The malls — and internet sites — are expected to remain busy throughout the weekend. About 71 million will shop Saturday, the retail federation said, and Cyber Monday could have about 78 million shoppers.
CORRECTION: Vanessa Mitton is the marketing director at Westfield South Shore mall. An earlier version of this story online misspelled her name.