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Black Friday sales give retailers' spirits a boost


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POSTED: Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Black Friday sales in Hawaii might not have set any records this year; however, they brightened retailers' spirits and made sure that many still will be in business come New Year.

Holiday sales on Black Friday, traditionally the biggest shopping day of the year, did not take Urban Flava out of the red for 2009. Still, it provided a needed surge in business, said Tony Sproat, manager of Urban Flava, a hip-hop clothing and family fashion store.

“;We had heavy traffic on Friday. It helped us set a mark for what we think will be a successful Christmas season,”; Sproat said.

Urban Flava had a better profit margin during last year's holiday season but offered greater discounts this year and moved more product, albeit at lower profit margins, he said.

“;Instead of buying a couple of T-shirts for $100, customers walked out with 10 for $200,”; Sproat said.

It's been a season of trade-offs for retailers in Hawaii and nationwide who saw shoppers rise this weekend but reported lower profit margins and average sales.

Black Friday weekend traffic rose more than 13 percent to 195 million shoppers; however, they spent about 8 percent less, or $343.31 per person, than last year, the National Retail Federation reported.

Hawaii's numbers will not be available until month's end, but retailers reported strong surges on Friday or Saturday and a weaker Sunday and Monday.

Local retailers, who grew leaner during this past recession, have identified with the musical character Auntie Mame who begged for holiday relief, said Carol Pregill, president of Retail Merchants of Hawaii.

“;We need a little Christmas now,”; Pregill said. “;I've been singing that song all year.”;

Joyfully, some shoppers disregarded the downturn and spent money anyway.

More than 500 people lined up for gift bags at Windward Mall on Friday, said Jonathan Kim, general manager of the mall.

“;The person that won the shopping spree got here about 3:30 a.m.,”; Kim said.

Shoppers tailgated on Thanksgiving Day to be first when Toys “;R”; Us opened at midnight, said Deborah Sharkey, a spokeswoman for Pearlridge Center.

“;By the time they opened, there were more than 1,000 people in line,”; Sharkey said.

Fifteen minutes after opening, Sears already had empty shelves, she said.

“;Our retailers were very aggressive with pricing. Some even offered 40 percent off—that's unusual this early,”; said Fred Paine, general manager of Pearlridge Center.

Kahala Mall General Manager Floyd Williamson said most stores there saw more shoppers on Saturday than on Friday.

“;It seemed better than last year,”; Williamson said.

He expects pre-Christmas week to be stronger still.

Black Friday was a warm-up for holiday rush, said Reimar Muniz, manager of Pearlridge Center's Razor Concepts and Razor Sports.

“;We're a specialty item store, so for us the final Saturday before Christmas tends to be our biggest day,”; Muniz said.