Slumping economy does not scare off bargain shoppers

Preliminary surveys show that sales rose on Black Friday from last year.
Hundreds of shoppers line up on sidewalks early Black Friday morning at Zona Rosa in Kansas City. Despite low expectations, Black Friday sales increased over last year according to the National Retail Federation.

Despite reports that people are spending less on Christmas this year due to the slumping economy, MU sophomore Kaitlin Corbett, an economics major, was not all that worried about curtailing her spending habits on Black Friday. "Unfortunately, my spending habits have not really changed," Corbett said. "I am not really worried, though. I'll be fine."

Corbett was just one of many shoppers around the country that did not let the economic downturn deter them from spending money on the busiest shopping day of the year.

According to a survey released by the National Retail Federation, Black Friday sales were up 7.2 percent from last year. Altogether, shoppers spent about $41 billion. Black Friday is traditionally the largest shopping day of the year.

Nearly 73.6 million people went shopping on Friday and 23.3 percent of those shoppers were at the stores by 5 a.m.

Stores saw the most increases in sales of clothing and sporting goods, as opposed to last year. Overall, sales of books, CDs, DVDs and video games were down from last year. The item with the largest decline from last year, however, was gift certificates.

Not every store was booming with business, though. In Washington, D.C., several stores did not quite meet sales expectations.

Omid Hart, a sales associate at the Macy's in downtown Washington said there were more customers than usual in the men's clothing department where he works, but that they were looking for things they could pay for in cash, meaning only deeply discounted items were moving off the shelves.

"Sales aren't good today," Hart said. "There aren't a lot of buyers, but there are a lot of bargainers."

The economic downturn also affected where people shopped. More people shopped at traditional department stores than in years past. Less people went to specialty retailers to find gifts.

Compared to last year, sales were down at Origins, a company that manufactures bath and body products from organic sources.

"We usually have two people working the registers and we had to tell them not to come in today," Carolyn Trombley, an employee at an Origins in Troy, Mich., said. "Even the promotions aren't doing well. There are just fewer people."

In Columbia, sales were not quite what some stores thought they would be. A number of factors contributed to this, everything from bad weather to college students leaving town for the Thanksgiving holiday.

At Britches Clothing in downtown Columbia, sales were down from last year, Assistant Manager Danielle Manocchy said.

"There just wasn't as much action going on as we thought there would be," Manocchy said. "Now that the students are back in town, we expect sales to pick up."

The economy caused many stores to declare bankruptcy and close branches, including electronics retailer Circuit City. Despite the announcement that Circuit City would be closing many stores across the country, sales did not slow in Columbia.

"It was busy all day, with lines out the door," Jon Gregory, store operations manager, said. "We were going all day, from 5 a.m. until we closed."

While early numbers show that sales were up over the weekend, nothing can be certain until stores release their November sales information this coming Thursday.

— Reporter Sangeeta Shastry contributed reporting from Troy, Mich. Staff Writer Wes Duplantier reported from Washington.

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