Let the feeding frenzy begin. Tomorrow is Black Friday — the biggest shopping day of the year during which consumers throughout the nation descend on malls hunting for bargains like mice fighting over a piece of cheese.
Shoppers are expected to line up in front of stores in the Valley as early as 3 a.m.
As with every post-Thanksgiving shopping bonanza, the potential savings for the earliest risers are huge. Wal-Mart, for instance, is selling $139 KitchenAid brand mixers, and Target is advertising $199 19-inch high-definition television sets.
Although 31 percent of Valley residents polled said they will spend less this holiday season than last year, the National Retail Federation predicts that sales will increase 4 percent to $474.5 billion.
NRF spokeswoman Kathy Grannis groups holiday shoppers into three types — those who love it, those who hate it and those who will consider leaving the comfort of their couches as long as the discounts are deep enough.
According to consumer polling firm BIGResearch, that last segment of consumers account for about 36 percent.
Retailers are hoping to entice them with some pretty creative strategies this year.
For example, Wal-Mart is extending its Black Friday shopping specials over a period three days starting with “Online Thursday” when the retailer will offer exclusive online deals and allow shoppers to ship the products to their nearest store free.
And instead of conducting door-buster sales on Friday only, the retailer plans to offer more deep discounts on Saturday as well.
Chandler Fashion Center, meanwhile, is encouraging its customers to shop in their pajamas and is even offering free massages and breakfast to the first 20 shoppers.
A lesser-known retailer, Liquid Clothing, is planning to fuel its shopping-weary customers with wine and appetizers from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at its Scottsdale store near Third Avenue and Goldwater Boulevard.
Although forecasts call for increased spending over last year’s holiday season, East Valley shoppers will be more reserved, experts say.
Bob Kammrath, a Valley retail analyst, said that’s because local consumers have been disproportionately affected by the nation’s economic woes, especially the housing slump.
“Arizona is right at the top along with Nevada and Florida as far as places going in the toilet,” he said.
“It would make sense that the impact would be greater on the stores here.”
Industry watchers said everything from the wobbly stock market to tighter credit and oil prices that are close to $100 a barrel will weigh heavily on shoppers’ minds this year.
“We’re projecting retail sales will grow 4.5 percent during the holiday seasons,” said Jay McIntosh, Ernst & Young’s director of consumer products for the Americas. “(That) would be the worst year since 2002.”
Still, McIntosh said it’s not bad and it’s comfortably close to last years’ 4.9 percent growth.
These optimistic forecasters obviously haven’t spoken to Gilbert resident Scott Selitsky, who was shopping Wednesday at SanTan Village with his father, said falling home values and rising gas prices are the reasons he’ll spend about 50 percent less this season.
“There are a lot of unknowns out there,” said the father of two.
Pete Schneider, who was sitting in the mall’s courtyard while his wife shopped, said he couldn’t disagree more that attitude.
Schneider said he pays little attention to housing prices. And since he works at home, he said he’s affected very little by rising gas prices.
“We’ve already spent more this year,” he chuckled.
Malls and stores across the East Valley will be opening early Friday.
Chandler Fashion Center
Loop 101 and Chandler Boulevard
Scottsdale Fashion Square
Camelback and Scottsdale roads
Superstition Springs Center
U.S. 60 and Power Road, Mesa
I-10 and Baseline Road, Tempe
Alma School Road and Southern Avenue, Mesa
Loop 202 and Williams Field Road, Gilbert