Retail analysts are predicting record store and online sales this season over the holidays, but crowds haven’t gotten started early in some of the Bay Area’s busiest retail corners.
At the Westfield Oakridge mall in San Jose, the number of shoppers can be in the tens, not in the hundreds, just after 7am on Friday morning when stores first opened. There was plenty of parking, and the only queue that formed was a congregation of about eight people waiting to get into GameStop before it opened its doors.
Patricia DiSilva and Hannah Arrington were two of those waiting to get into GameStop before the doors open and were surprised by the lack of a crowd.
They live nearby and walked to the mall to avoid crowds in the parking lot.
“We were trying to cut traffic,” Arrington said.
“But there were no traffic jams,” DiSilva continued.
In East Bay, crowds were small 90 minutes after the Sunvalley Shopping Center in Concord opened at 7 a.m., with unobstructed passage and plenty of wiggle room among the shops.
Throughout the mall, there were stark reminders of the pandemic that lasted for two holiday seasons: signs to stay away if you felt any COVID-19-related symptoms, and to disguise yourself inside and maintain social distancing.
Quiet Morning is a departure from the scenes years ago, when crowds gathered the night before Black Friday to storm closed-door retailers and wade through crowds of other shoppers to spot bargains. It’s the online world these days, and many of the deals people are looking for are available online throughout the holiday season, not just Black Friday.
“It’s not so much Black Friday as Black Month,” said Obi Elenda, 25, who was waiting to buy something at an empty Vans store in Sunvalley Mall on Friday morning. “So there is time and deals.”
Or, as 28-year-old Shannon Smoke said, pumping gas near Safeway, which is adjacent to a mall. “Either way, you can get everything you need on Cyber Monday.”
The recent outbreak of mall burglaries in the Bay Area doesn’t seem to have affected Elendu much. “I’m not too worried about contractions because I get out early and I just think there is such a realization now that it might stop for a while,” he said.
Despite lower COVID-19 rates and vaccine availability during last year’s shopping season, people may still be wary of rushing into huge crowds of retailers, Kirti Kalyanam, director of the Institute for Retail Management at Santa Clara University, said this week.
“I don’t think people are so comfortable doing this (after the pandemic),” Kalyanam said.
However, the experts predicted that sales would be strong and said the stores would have a lot of visitors throughout the day and weekends. Local merchants said they expect the largest crowds in the late afternoon on Black Friday.
“While we don’t expect to rush to the door on Black Friday, we expect healthy crowds as our guests celebrate the return of this festive season,” said Karen Strack, senior vice president of customer marketing and brand for Unibail. -Rodamco-Westfield said earlier this week.
Consumers spent $ 5.1 billion on Thanksgiving and are expected to spend between $ 8.8 billion and $ 9.6 billion on Black Friday, according to the Adobe Digital Economy Index, which analyzes direct consumer transactions on the Internet.
Thanksgiving spending was at the bottom of what Adobe had predicted for online spending, $ 5.1 billion to $ 5.4 billion]but it was still an increase from the average daily spending.
Adobe analysts predict online sales will reach $ 207 billion for the entire holiday shopping season from November 1 to December 31, up 10% from last year, and a new record.
“Today, consumers will see greater discounts and more stock in stock as retailers release their best deals of the season. Big discounts are already available this morning on popular products including computers, apparel, home appliances and sporting goods, ”said Taylor Schreiner, director of Adobe Digital Insights.
Another factor that can limit crowd size? People are using roadside pickup options at retailers that have become popular, particularly during the pandemic. On Thanksgiving Day, curbside pickup was used by 21% of all online orders from retailers who offer the service, according to Adobe.
Local retailers say they believe people started shopping earlier this year, which they were strongly encouraged to do as supply chain problems threatened to delay the delivery of goods by Christmas.
“I noticed a lot more people were shopping earlier this year,” said Kirsten Vinkor, store manager for Legends Comics & Games at Oakridge Mall.
Wincor has spoken to many buyers over the past weeks, she said, and “they all talked about how to move forward with holiday shopping.”
And even if they don’t come out sooner, forecasts from the retail industry indicate that people will hit stores this weekend. The International Council of Shopping Centers said 85% of shoppers plan to spend money in brick-and-mortar stores this year, according to its survey of shoppers.
According to the National Retail Federation, roughly 2 in 3 Americans plan to shop on Thanksgiving weekend.
The group predicted last month that holiday sales – both online and in-person purchases – in November and December will grow 8.5-10.5% over 2020, to $ 843.4-859 billion. This number does not include sales at car dealerships, gas stations and restaurants. In 2020, holiday sales rose 8.2% to $ 777.3 billion, higher than the 4.4% average growth each year over the past five years.
Staff writer Martha Ross contributed to the reporting.