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Black Friday tally: Shoppers show up - and spend

Shoppers line up to check out on Friday

Shoppers line up to check out on Friday at Best Buy in Westbury. (Nov. 27, 2009) Credit: Howard Schnapp

Shoppers showed up in force Friday, equaling or exceeding last year's number and waiting hours on snaking lines to take advantage of the early bird specials, but it was unclear how much turnout on Black Friday was an indicator for the rest of the holiday shopping season.

"Frugal fatigue has surfaced, pent-up demand has appeared and what that means is that consumers are buying for themselves as well as for others and that's a really huge piece to the puzzle," said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst for The NPD Group, a Port Washington market research firm. "You can't overstate the results of today because it represents only 10 percent of the holiday business, but we didn't have bad news and that's the good news."

Crowd 'up significantly'

At the Westbury Best Buy, just as many shoppers as last year, if not more, made it their mission to be at the store for its 5 a.m. opening, said general manager Peter Conway. The crowds at the Smith Haven Mall in Lake Grove were "up significantly" from last year, according to Barbara Riley, marketing director for Simon Property Group, the mall's owner.

Retailers at the Westfield Sunrise Mall in Massapequa said they saw about a 50 percent boost in the early crowds this Black Friday, according to Christiann Wallace, marketing director for the mall. The parking lot at Deer Park's Tanger Outlets at the Arches were 80 percent to 85 percent full a half an hour after opening, according to the center's general manager.

Enough sales to entice

Retailers have carefully planned this year's sales and discounts, which are not as steep or numerous as they were last year when companies panicked, retail analysts said. But shoppers said there were enough good sales to entice them. At the Farmingdale Target, a 32-inch Westinghouse TV - marked down $194 - sold fastest.

"Within the first 10 minutes, the 75 televisions were sold," said store manager Vincent Scavone.

Carlos E. Monteiro, 22, a Mineola caterer, and his friends pitched a tent outside of the Westbury Best Buy Thursday morning claiming the first spot on line. The savings on televisions, a PlayStation and a Sony Vaio laptop ranged from $200 to $1,000, he said.

Why they shopped

Retail analysts questioned whether the consumers came out only for the sale or if they made other unplanned purchases once in the store.

The consumer, who continues to be battered by unemployment, reduced pay and decreased property values, is focused on price, said Howard Davidowitz, chairman of Davidowitz & Associates, Inc., a Manhattan-based retail consulting and investment banking firm.

"The game plan of the stores was to get them in and once they are in, sell them a lot of other stuff," said Davidowitz, noting stores ran out of specials quickly. "I don't think that was the game plan of consumers."

This year's Black Friday shoppers cited a wide range of motivations, including necessity and even retail therapy.

Ron Cooper of Brooklyn, a technical education teacher in a Brooklyn public school, said he will be spending more this year "out of necessity" because his television broke and he needs a new one.

"I'm going to have to put this on a credit card," Cooper said. "But I expect to pay off the card totally" before interest charges mount. And then there were some who decided they were not going to skimp on their children despite their hardships.

Theresa Mazzarra, 41, of Elmont, vowed that despite a pay cut and debt from last year, she would not skimp on presents for her 18-month old daughter and the children in her family.

"If I have to work 10 jobs, she's getting what she wants," said Mazzarra, whose Toys "R" Us shopping cart was piled high. "You charge it. That tree will be full. I never will cut back."

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