Braving Midtown on Black Friday

Article and photos by Dalvin Brown

Retail foot traffic was strong in Midtown Manhattan on Black Friday despite surveys showing that retailers were less than generous this year with in-store discounts.

Grace Lee, 21, and Andrea Zhang, 19, took an hour-long train ride from New Brunswick, N.J., to Penn Station early Friday morning to check out sales at Macy’s before heading to the Times Square area, with a stop for a bite at Bryant Park’s Winter Village.

“We came because the city is beautiful this time of year and it was a great day to do some comparison shopping,” said Zhang.

Lee and Zhang, international students from China, attend the  Rutgers Business School said they went to Macy’s after seeing the deep discounts the store offered online, expecting those discounts to be reflected in-store. But that was not the case. “They had better deals online than in-store so I left without purchasing anything,” said Zhang.

The extremely long lines in the store didn’t help, they added.

A crash of Macy’s credit-card payment system contributed to overcrowding and longer than usual checkout times.

“I think it’s better to go in-store – at least to try on,” said Zhang, referring to the wide range of apparel in the 2.2 million-square-foot flagship store. “But it’s better to buy tech online,” responded Lee, who says she got more discounts on Apple products online than she would have in-store.

Unwilling to accept defeat, they went elsewhere in Midtown and bought cold weather gear from Uniqlo, a Japanese casual-wear retailer known for selling heat-tech clothing, and Muji, a contemporary Japanese brand, that produces high quality apparel and household goods – both in Midtown.

“It’s important to support Asian brands,” said Zhang who was happy to have purchased a $40 scarf from Muji for, “only 30 bucks!” Lee added, “I don’t really have a budget but I don’t want to feel swindled either.”

Lee said she was shopping mostly for her family in China. “It’s much cheaper for me to buy things here.” Zhang continued, because of the high import tax rate in China on international goods.  “If I buy a luxury bag like Coach, here I have to pay something like 30 percent in tax once I enter China if they find out.”

Both said they were spending about the same amount as last year on holiday shopping, consistent with a National Retail Federation holiday forecast that predicts that 54 percent of consumers will do the same.

Though they differ on which department store is best for purchasing clothing, the two friends share an affinity for skincare products. , “Clinic and Nordstrom offered 20 to 25 percent off online which was really good,” said Lee, “I can’t wait for the package to arrive.”

As the sun began to set on the winter wonderland, the women mapped out their next stop: Sephora – checking their cell phones for discounts as they took the brisk walk over to Times Square.

“They’re going to make a lot of money today,” said Zhang about the beauty giant. Lee agreed: “Yeah, I bet every girl on the island is going there.”

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