Joy Famiglietti of Bayville, shown shopping at Target her sons,...

Joy Famiglietti of Bayville, shown shopping at Target her sons, left is Angelo and Johnny. (Nov. 24, 2000) Credit: Karen Wiles Stabile

This story was originally published in Newsday on Nov. 25, 2000

Teresa Tudisco usually greets Black Friday with a wallet and long shopping list in hand. But this time, the West Hempstead resident expected to spend less than half the $ 500 she shelled out last year on the day after Thanksgiving.

That's because Tudisco had already bought a dozen Christmas gifts on the Internet at sites like rightstart.com and fossil.com. She and her brother traded Web site addresses along with their gift lists for their infants.

"I'll do a lot less shopping today because most of the gifts I buy are for children, and I've already bought most of them online," Tudisco said as she hunted for bargains at Target in Westbury at 8 a.m.

While hundreds of thousands of people flooded stores and malls Friday to mark the traditional start of the holiday shopping season, some will leave with fewer bags than in the past because they are turning to online retailers. Internet sales are expected to nearly double to $ 12.5 billion this yuletide, with the peak volume starting the day after Thanksgiving, according to a survey by NPD Online, a Port Washington-based research firm.

"We are seeing our own online Black Friday," said Pamela J. Smith, vice president at NPD Online.

Amazon.com had to shut down its site Friday between 11:30 a.m. and noon, though spokespeople for the company, the largest Internet retailer, blamed the problem on an internal malfunction and not on holiday traffic. Yahoo! Shopping, meanwhile, expected daily order volume Friday to double last year's figures, based on early indications.

A year ago, when e-tailers were predicting the death of brick-and-mortar stores, this news might have left traditional retailers reeling.

Much, however, has changed this season. Pure-plays-Internet-only retailers such as Pets.com and Eve.com-have been closing in droves, and the survivors are still struggling to reach profitability. Longtime brick-and mortar merchants, on the other hand, view the Internet less as a threat and more as an opportunity to bring in sales, both online and in the stores.

The Wiz, for instance, posted on its Web site coupons that shoppers could use in the stores. Wal-Mart allows Web visitors to buy gift cards for in- store purchases.

At J.C. Penney's Broadway Mall store in Hicksville, manager Chas Thompson welcomes sales on the Internet. He receives credit for online purchases made by people in surrounding ZIP codes. Last month, the company changed its logo to stress its stores, catalog and online site.

"The Web is just another extension of my business," said Thompson, who has racked up credit for $ 200,000 Internet sales so far this year and expects that figure to double by year's end.

Many shoppers spent Friday mixing traditional and online shopping. Eric Abbey of Oceanside joined the throngs at Roosevelt Field in Garden City, both to stop by stores without online sites and to window-shop for items he'll buy on the Web.

But even with the growth in Internet shopping, many people still woke up before dawn and flocked to the stores. At Roosevelt Field, shoppers waited in the freezing cold for KB Toys to open at 5 a.m., and at the company's stores in Queens and Manhattan, lines snaked out the door as security guards allowed only a few customers in at a time.

Cindy Ramos from Brentwood had to wait 45 minutes to pay at KB Toys at the Westfield Shoppingtown South Shore in Bay Shore.

Midday foot traffic at South Shore was up between 3 percent and 5 percent from a year ago, said Lynn Blaney, mall marketing director. At Swezey's, chief executive Bill Knapp said the chain's newest flagship store in Patchogue saw its parking lot nearly filled by its 8 a.m. opening.

Though retailers tried to lure customers with special promotions and gifts, many did not offer the blow-out discounts seen in the past, perhaps because of their already slashed prices and anemic earnings so far this year.

Several store managers said their early sales figures seemed to defy analysts' predictions of a weak Christmas. Richard A. Ranges, general manager at Bloomingdale's in Roosevelt Field, said holiday revenues so far were comparable to last year's, and he said he was expecting big surges the weekend before Christmas.

Tanger Outlet Center in Riverhead most likely broke all records for traffic, according to the manager, Janine Nebons, and several stores there reported matching last year's Black Friday sales figures by noon.

At the Tommy Hilfiger shop there, promotions got shoppers out of bed early, many of them lured by a 40 percent discount if they arrived before 9 a.m. with a store coupon.

But the store, which opened at 5:45 a.m., had to stop people from coming in at 8 a.m.,relying on a big, burly man in a blue blazer to patrol the door.

Don Payne of Holliswood, who stood outside the store with his fiancee for at least 45 minutes, said the wait was worth it.

The best deals, he said, were to be had there-even better than what's available online. "Forty percent off, and there's no shipping and handling."

 

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