Holiday Shopping: On Line and Online

By Richard Leslie

First to arrive, the Stevens family spent almost 14 hours online for Best Buy's Black Friday sale in Nyack, NY on Thansgiving Day. Photo by Richard Leslie
First to arrive, the Stevens family spent almost 14 hours on line for Best Buy’s Black Friday sale in West Nyack, N.Y. on Thanksgiving Day.
Photo by Richard Leslie

A chilly Thanksgiving Day kicked off the traditional Black Friday shopping season, with the temperature at 30 degrees outside at the Palisades Center in West Nyack, N.Y. as a line started forming outside Best Buy at 4 a.m. By the time the store opened 14 hours later, at 6 p.m., hundreds of people were lined up outside.

The store would remain open for 28 straight hours, rotating employees across 10-15 staggered shifts, according to District Manager Ryan Dennin.

Among the first shoppers were Jim Stevens and his three sons. The 48-year-old computer technician decided to make an adventure of the event, camping out with chairs, blankets and an electric heater. Despite its early arrival, the Stevens family was at the end of its shopping season, having started early in November and, after conducting extensive research online, coming to Best Buy for a television and a computer.

More homework, Stevens explained, meant less time in the stores. It would also help the family meet its goal of spending less money than they had last year — though they didn’t set a specific budget.

A number of shoppers at the Palisades Center were cautiously optimistic about the economy but still worried that the pace of recovery has been too slow. For many shoppers at Best Buy, that concern meant taking time to research potential purchases and making deliberate decisions about what and when to buy.

The first customers enter Best Buy in on Black Friday Photo by Richard Leslie
The first customers enter Best Buy at the Palisades Center in West Nyack, N.Y. on Thanksgiving
Photo by Richard Leslie

Tariq Ali, for example, was using his smart phone to compare prices on televisions as he roamed the Best Buy aisles. “It’s all about saving money,” said Ali. “I’m definitely spending less than last year.” He eventually found a better deal at an online retailer and made the purchase, using his phone.

Despite all the research being done online, most shoppers still prefer buying in an old-fashioned brick-and-mortar store. According to ShopperTrak, a company that analyzes retail shopping data, 90 percent of all sales are still done in store.

Daniel Pichardo was right behind the Stevens family, getting on line at 5 a.m., had already done his comparison shopping online and was ready to buy. The 22-year-old DJ and business owner was shopping for televisions for himself and his nightclub. Pichardo said he expected to spend more money this year than last.


From other locations, Dollars & Sense brings you the following reports:

GameStop, Kings Plaza, Brooklyn

By Terrance Ross

When the PA system at the GameStop in the Kings Plaza shopping center in Brooklyn announced the bad news Thanksgiving night, the collective groan of the customers who had eagerly lined up outside to await the opening of the video game store was almost deafening. “We are sold out of all next generation consoles, sorry for the inconvenience,” the announcement blared repeatedly, much to the dismay of the many gamers whose hopes for Black Friday weekend shopping were dashed.

With the recent release of Sony’s PlayStation 4 and Microsoft’s Xbox One, the gaming industry is an ever more important factor in getting young people out to shop during the Black Friday weekend. At KingsPlaza, some of the youth-dominated crowd immediately left the line, while others frantically reached for their cell phones to alert friends or family members that they would not be able to purchase the latest game consoles.

Customers were baffled that the gaming consoles they went to GameStop for on Thanksgiving would not be available. Photo by Terrance Ross
Customers baffled that the gaming consoles they went to GameStop for on Thanksgiving would not be available.
Photo by Terrance Ross

Customers were disappointed that the gaming consoles they sought at GameStop were not be available.

All the scrambling was for products that won’t be discounted for months to come. The Sony play station current retails for $399 and the Xbox One at $499.

Deon Bridges, 18, was one of the disappointed customers. “Honestly I’m kinda annoyed, but I knew this would happen,” he said, referring to the scarcity of the new consoles.

GameStop employees spent the entire night dealing with unhappy customers. “We never announced we would have huge quantities of systems,” said Tyrell Davidson, an associate at GameStop. “The thing is, Sony ships them as they see fit — we are on their schedule. We can’t work magic over here.”

Employees also had to field questions from hordes of non-tech-savvy parents, many of whom lined up, hands on hips, peppering GameStop employees with questions about the Xbox and PlayStation. One patron even demanded to speak to a manager about when the next shipment would be coming in. “They kept asking me questions I don’t have the answer to,” said Davidson, adding that some customers got angry. “I get they want to surprise their kids but every time a new system comes out it’s the same thing.”

More seasoned game-console aficionados advocated a more tempered approach. For example, Jimmy Markin, a 37-year-old veteran gamer, who was shopping for video games, not consoles, advised fellow customers against buying the latest systems, noting that the latest consoles are often buggy and require software fixes. “For what happened with the Ps3 in 2006,” he said referring to an older Sony game console, “I think it takes like one or two years for these companies to really figure this stuff out. No sense rushing to buy it now anyway – wait for the price drop in a year.”

Indeed, customers could snap up popular video games such as  Battlefield 4 and Call of Duty Ghosts, which usually retail for $60 and were marked down for the day to $24.99 and $44.99, respectively.

Best Buy, Yonkers, N.Y.

By Ashleigh Baker

About 200 people were lined up outside Best Buy, waiting for the “midnight mystery Doorbuster,” even though the store opened at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving day. To be eligible for the doorbusters, people had to line up outside; customers inside were not eligible for the special deals.

“We opened six hours earlier this year; this gave us the competitive advantage,” said Mike Levak, the store’s general manager, who stood at the sliding glass entrance way greeting customers. “In previous years, we opened at midnight on Black Friday and were losing sales.”

Among the customers waiting in line for midnight was 23-year-old Angel Ortiz, iPhone in hand, scanning through his Instagram timeline.  “Yeah, my family is still at home, I figured I would come now so I could get a good spot on line,” Ortiz explained.  “I have to get that 55-inch LG flat screen, they have it for half off.”

Best Buy offered three different doorbusters, at 6 P.M. Thursday, midnight and 10 A.M Friday. Last year it offered only one.

“It’s kind of like a tradition for us,” said Jackie Salomon, who was inside with her sister, checking out a Samsung Galaxy tablet.  “I know they have it for sale online, but I like to come into the store so I can touch what I’m buying and ask the sales people questions.” 

Apple Store, Roosevelt Field mall, Garden City, N.Y.

By Peter Fearon

Shoppers wait for the Apple Store in the Roosevelt Field mall to open on Black Friday, even though prices don't change from day-to-day. Photo by Peter Fearon
Shoppers wait for the Apple Store in the Roosevelt Field mall to open on Black Friday, even though prices don’t vary from day-to-day.
Photo by Peter Fearon

Black Friday wasn’t so different from many days at the Apple Store.

“This is Apple, we’re packed every time a new product is released,” said Andy Vega, an assistant manager. “We are always prepared for these busy days. We make sure all hands are on deck.”

Many of the staff carry iPhones and iPads that can be used to ring up customer payments. “It’s great that we can use the products we’re selling to keep the crowds moving,” Vega said.

The enduring popularity of Apple products received a pre-holiday boost with the introduction of the new iPad Air was released, as well as two new iPhones.

With the demand for its product, Apple is able to maintain pricing, and no holiday sales were available. Apple did offer consumers who purchased iPods, iPads or Macs gift cards ranging in value from $50-$150.

“I’m an Apple guy,” said Todd Blair, a 29-year-old from West Hempstead.  Blair came to the mall looking for gifts from several stores but couldn’t resist popping into his favorite store. “I’ve been thinking about getting an iPad so I just went for it and got one here. I figured I might as well, for me, the gift card is great; it will definitely get its use.”

Not everyone felt that way.  “I’m not paying full price, especially today,” said Rachel Krumholz, 47, of Roslyn.  Foot traffic was steady throughout the day, with many people stopping by just to play with iPhones and iPads, but sales seemed strong.  “So far we’re looking like we’re on pace to meet or surpass last years sales,” said Vega.

Accessories seemed to be the biggest seller, with cases, screen protectors, docks, clocks and speakers flying off the shelves. It was all a reminder of the strength of Apple, which can enjoy strong sales without any discounts.

FootLocker, Queens Center, Elmhurst

By Stalin Pinos

Mark Sanchez, 21, couldn’t resist the low prices on sneakers at the Queens Center FootLocker. The deals included Nike Uptowns, which normally retail for as much as $110, and were priced as low as $40 on Black Friday.

“I thought they were great deals,” said Sanchez who lives in Ozone Park and bought five pairs of sneakers for a total of $320.

But it wasn’t just low prices that drew in customers. By Black Friday, the store had run out of its entire stock of new Nike Foamposite sneakers, which were priced at $250 and only became available the day before Thanksgiving. “These people are out of their mind for paying that much for sneakers,” said Mike Torez, the store manager, who said FootLocker’s inventory had included 75 pairs of the popular new sneaker in a variety of adult sizes.

Toys ‘R’ Us, Times Square

By Antonio P. Viveros

At 5 p.m. on Thanksgiving, eager shoppers were waiting for the doors to open at Toys ‘R’ Us. By 8 a.m. the next morning it seemed as though more employees were on the floors than customers.

Theresa Archevald said she was shopping for “an iPod touch for my son because with toys they only spend about a week or two and they break it or they just get bored with it. But with the iPad/iPod touch games they will last longer and if he gets bored I can just buy another App game. There are a lot of Apps to help my kids learn with numbers and words, plus I can use it too.”

Linda DeNotaris, a manager of corporate communications at the Times Square store, said “hot” items were distributed throughout the store, with many discounts. 

Many store employees were actively engaged in displaying and showcasing of toys;  a magician was demonstrating a magic trick kit for kids, while other staff members were flying remote-controlled helicopters and a special paper plane.

Century 21, Rego Park, Queens, N.Y. 

By Dale Kim

A customer searches for a coat size at Century 21, which was relatively slow on Black Friday. Photo by Dale Kim
A customer searches for a coat size at Century 21, which was relatively slow on Black Friday.
Photo by Dale Kim

The Century 21 store at Rego Park was festooned with signs promoting half-off sales. But at midday on Black Friday, there was little jostling or shopping madness, as a thin crowd of mostly young and middle-aged women scouted the racks in search of steals on designer clothing.

Century 21 hired extra staff and opened 20 registers, which it manned at all times, to lessen tension and make it easier for customers to shop. “I was here two hours before we opened getting all the racks ready and I didn’t see a line outside of our store when we opened for Black Friday,” said Candice Henderson, a sales employee.

One reason why business may have been relatively slow is that Century 21 customers are used to getting “discounts year-round,” said Stephanie McMillan, a mother of three who was shopping for winter clothes for her children. “I came in because I wanted to see what they could offer on Black Friday. There isn’t too much different, except that clothes for winter are cheaper than they were before, which is perfect for the kids.”

The store manager Bruce Dagata, acknowledged, “Black Friday is not the busiest time of the year for us actually,” adding that customers tend to come “right before Christmas when the last-minute shoppers are desperate.”

The accessories and perfumes departments were among the only ones that were relatively crowded.

While close to 6 in 10 shoppers bought clothing and accessories over the Thanksgiving weekend, according to the National Retail Federation, that traffic was not apparent at Century 21. At midday on Black Friday, many of the store’s cash registers had no customers waiting on line.

Kohl’s, Green Acres Mall, Valley Stream, N.Y.

By Ashley Baratian

The Green Acres Mall Kohl’s was surprisingly quiet on Black Friday.

Many of its budget-minded customers said they were still worried about the economy. Sarah Schrieber, a stay-at-home mother of two, said she had been “extremely impacted by the recession.”

With one college-age child who has racked up $250,000 in loans, Schrieber, 46, said she and her husband, a professor at Stony Brook University, had budgeted  $100 for gifts for each child – the lowest amount in years.

“My eldest daughter is at George Washington University and for Hanukkah, she asked me to get her a new iPod, but I don’t have that kind of money right now, so she will have to settle for a different MP3 player,” said Schrieber.

And while her other daughter wanted her parents to pay for a senior trip to Florida, Schreiber said that her daughter would have to raise the money for the trip herself. “As my gift to her, I will buy her some clothes to wear while she is down there,” she said.

Mary Vasquez, 52, a single mother of Clarissa, 8, came to Kohl’s with two close friends looking to purchase clothes and accessories for her daughter.

“I like to keep my budget around $45 to $50 when I go shopping for Clarissa for Christmas,” said Vasquez, an accountant. “This year I am going to keep that same budget even though it is a little bit too much now for me.”

Vasquez said she had lost three jobs since 2008 but is working again and determined to hold on to her new job. “Things have been tough these past couple of years,” she said.