Stores call Black Friday a success

Published 3:46 pm Saturday, November 28, 2009

Call it an economic stimulus. Several big Austin retailers said that, at least anecdotally, their Black Friday events were successful — and larger than last year.

And this could be a good sign in a year when experts are projecting a slight decline in overall holiday shopping nationally.

Sara Wundrow, store manager at the Austin Target, said more than 500 people lined up in front of the store for the 5 a.m. opening, a slight increase from last year.

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She said she couldn’t release specific retail statistics, per company policy, but did note that sales were up.

“We’re really excited about the turnout,” Wundrow said.

Big items of the morning were 32-inch Westinghouse LCD TVs, which sold out in less than five minutes, as well as portable DVD players, electronic drum sets and video games. Wundrow said the crowd remained pretty steady throughout the morning but she did expect a bit off a drop-off after noon.

“Sales were great,” Wundrow said. “Better than expected.”

Younkers also had a good morning, the store manager said, perhaps because they opened an hour before Target.

Manager Randy Forster said he thought there were more people in line this year at 4 a.m. than in 2008.

“We had a great morning with the traffic,” he said.

Though they’re open 24 hours and don’t have an official Black Friday event, Wal-Mart was also successful in the early morning hours, a store spokesman said, likely exceeding last year’s sales.

And even smaller retailers got into the act.

“We are extremely busy,” Steve Musel, manager at the Sterling Main Street shopping center in Austin, said during the day Friday. “So far, so good.”

Nationally, 134 million people were expected to shop this weekend, according to the National Retail Federation — up from 128 million last year.

Department and discount stores were expected to be the big draw given the uncertain economy, with more than 60 percent of consumers expected to go to one or both.

Despite those positive signs, the NRF is still projecting overall sales to be down this holiday season. According to the retail organization’s holiday forecast, which was released in October, sales are expected to drop by 1 percent this year.

Typically, there is a roughly 3.4 percent growth in sales from one holiday season to the next.

But maybe shoppers, like those in Austin, didn’t get the memo about 2009 being a down year.