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Black Friday: ‘Cautious’ shoppers hit the stores

By Staff | Nov 28, 2008

YUNET JOMOLCA Cape Coral residents Andrea and Steve Oliva look at the different Christmas trees available at June’s Hallmark located at Big John’s Plaza during their Black Friday shopping spree.

As Black Friday kicked off the holiday shopping season, all the usual scenes were on display — long lines, early bird deals, fatigued shoppers –but the atmosphere was more subdued than in years past.
While financial giants, insurance companies, and perhaps automakers are counting on federal bailouts to stay afloat this year, retailers usually count on one of the largest consumer spending day of the year to bail them out and put them in the “black.” But some local shoppers said the economic crunch is leading them to cut back on their holiday spending this year.
Sherri Boyd recently moved to Cape Coral from Virginia and said she will cutting back this holiday season.
“I’m being much more cautious,” Boyd said while shopping at Kohl’s on Pine Island Road.
As a business owner, Kim Carlson said the contracting economy will have a direct affect on her spending this year.
“I own a business, so it trickles down to my business, which trickles down to my pocket,” Carlson said while browsing at Target in the Midpoint Shopping Center.
Jane Hartz, owner of the June’s Hallmark gift shop in downtown Cape Coral, also said business was noticeably down Friday.
“It’s probably half off from last year,” Hartz said.
She added her store, in the Cape for nearly 30 years, did better its first year in town.
“In 1980, there were 37,000 people (in Cape Coral). We did more business then,” Hartz said.
National buzz about a particular “hot item” or fad toy this year is conspicuous in its absence, but Hartz said her Webkinz were selling fast.
Webkinz are plush animals with codes that are used to interact with a virtual world.
“It’s the No. 1 seller, it’s so hot,” she said.
Although Hartz said customers were “very conscious” of the economic situation, early morning shoppers experienced long lines at large retail stores.
Cape resident Roger Butts reported long lines at Kohl’s as shoppers waited for the store to open at 4 a.m. At 1:30 p.m, the checkout line was 25 people deep.
“We started at Kohl’s, there were a few hundred people in line then,” he said.
Butts has risen early on Black Friday for the past five years in search of bargains. Despite the long lines, he said they were longer in previous years.
“I don’t see as many people. Just from what I’ve seen, it’s not as packed,” he said.
After hitting Kohl’s, Butts waited for an hour and a half for Target to open at 6 a.m. Thinner crowds did not reduce the frenzy of early shoppers, he said, but there were no reports of overzealous snatching and grabbing.
“The guy at Target gave us the safety speech about not running, which nobody listened to. Everybody went running to the electronics section,” Butts said.
Overall “people were pretty courteous,” he added.
Smaller shopping crowds were also predicted nationwide.
According to a report released Tuesday by the National Retail Federation, the total number of shoppers over the Black Friday weekend is expected to be down compared to last year, but lower gas prices and backed up demand mean the drop will not be as dramatic. As many as 128 million people nationwide are expected to shop this weekend, down from last year’s figure of 135 million.
Instead of cutting back on presents this year, some consumers may be cutting back on their presents’ traditional shelter, the Christmas tree.
Al Mueller, owner of Al’s Seasonal, said he put up a larger tent with more trees in previous years at a location near the Santa Barbara Boulevard and Veterans Parkway.
“For the last eight years we’ve done a big tent. Obviously this year we went with a 2,400 square-foot tent, a no-frills set up,” Mueller said.
With less in-store traffic, retailers will be crossing their fingers for a busy Cyber Monday, touted as one of the busiest online shopping days of the year.