Weekend holiday sales buoy Prince George’s merchants -- Gazette.Net


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Many Prince George’s County retailers see last weekend’s sales as a positive sign for the whole holiday shopping season

“Things went pretty well. Saturday kicked it off for us,” said Elaine Jefferson, manager at the Shoe Parlor in Suitland. “It made me feel pretty good.”

Jefferson’s store participated in a national promotion called Small Business Saturday. The Small Business Administration and American Express have sponsored the promotion since 2010 to encourage consumers to shop at small businesses the day after the initial Black Friday rush.

American Express tried to boost interest this year by offering 100,000 card customers a $25 credit for “shopping small.”

“In fact, people were coming in, saying that they were shopping because it was Small Business Saturday,” Jefferson said, adding that she suspects she did better this weekend than during the 2011 Thanksgiving weekend. “If we could carry those sales through the year, it would be nice. We need to have a Small Business Year.”

The Mall at Prince Georges in Hyattsville had a busier Thursday than last year, with its Target store opening at 9 Thanksgiving night and Macy’s and 19 other retailers opening three hours later, at midnight, said spokeswoman Victoria Clark. She said most of the shoppers were young adults shopping in groups.

But while mall officials had anticipated people waiting around until 5 a.m. for Black Friday sales and had even prepared cookies and juice for them, much of the foot traffic tapered off at about 2 a.m., Clark said.

Things picked up again at about 6 a.m. Friday when J.C. Penney’s “doorbusters” sales sold out in 15 minutes, she said, adding that shoppers said they were glad J.C. Penney opened later.

Clark said the number of shoppers between 10 a.m. and noon Friday was the same as last year, with the mall packed at noon. Many of the sales were electronics such as televisions and phones, clothing and accessories, and home items.

“Customers have realized they can come when they want, so many stores staggered their doorbusters,” she said.

The mall also is hosting a $2,000 shopping spree sweepstakes through the holiday season.

“Based on what I’m seeing, I think we’ll have a good holiday season,” Clark said.

‘Love getting that deal’

Bowie Town Center hosted its first center-wide midnight opening for Black Friday, said spokeswoman Lindsay Pitts. She said shopping was heavy through 2 a.m., and then picked up again at about 6 a.m.

Pitts said customer counts seemed to be similar to last year’s.

“It’s all about the gift with purchase,” Pitts said. “It’s the discount coupon-friendly shopper more so than in the past. People are willing to spend, but they love getting that deal.”

Macy’s had an especially “killer” Black Friday, she said.

“It’s a very positive start. It makes me look forward to the future,” Pitts said.

But Saturday wasn’t so booming for some small merchants in Laurel.

“I think people want to do [Small Business Saturday], but I think everyone ran out of money Friday,” said Bob Porterfield, manager of the 35-year-old Belmont TV store in Laurel.

Porterfield said this year’s promotion was more heavily advertised than last year’s, but he questioned whether that advertising began early enough. He said he received his notice about the $25 American Express credit on Wednesday.

“It makes people think, though. It’s a good thing,” Porterfield said.

The National Federation of Independent Business released a report Monday that showed consumers who were aware of Small Business Saturday spent a total of $5.5 billion with independent merchants, up from the pre-holiday survey estimates of $5.3 billion.

Hobby Lobby in Laurel experienced an “average” Saturday, said store manager Scott Branch.

“I don’t see anything coming from it,” Branch said of the Saturday promotion. “People are more interested in the all-mighty dollar. We offer services here as well as items. Fewer and fewer customers are appreciating that.”

lrobbins@gazette.net