Black Friday packs MOA

The traditional post-Thanksgiving shopping weekend was a boon for retailers.

Lauren Varani, left, and Amanda Thigpen from Forest Lake wait for the doors at the Forever 21 at the Mall of America to open Friday early morning. Varani and Thigpen said they had been waiting since 4:15 a.m. that morning.

Lauren Varani, left, and Amanda Thigpen from Forest Lake wait for the doors at the Forever 21 at the Mall of America to open Friday early morning. Varani and Thigpen said they had been waiting since 4:15 a.m. that morning.

Frank

Thousands of bargain-seeking customers filled the Mall of America this Black Friday, some as early as mid-afternoon Thanksgiving Day, to take a shot at purchasing some of the most discounted items of the year. The traditional post-Thanksgiving shopping weekend was also a boon for retailers, as a National Retail Federation (NRF) survey showed there were more shoppers this weekend, although the average spending per household decreased. About 195 million people visited stores and Web sites this weekend, as opposed to 172 million from last year, according to the NRF. Eagan High School seniors Ale Castellenos and LaShay Ester were two of the 23 million new Black Friday shoppers this year. Visiting the store that had the longest line, the two shopped at Best Buy at the Mall of America before going to MacyâÄôs. âÄúWe didnâÄôt have any game plan,âÄù Castellenos said. Ester and Castellenos were also part of the 31 percent of shoppers who were in stores by 5 a.m., according to the NRF. Computers were once again one of the yearâÄôs hottest items for sale; Best Buy offered an HP laptop sold for under $200. Kevin Karner, an incoming University of Minnesota student, waited in the cold outside Best Buy in Eden Prairie from 7 p.m. on Thanksgiving evening to buy a $400 Sony Vaio laptop. Karner, who waited in line with a few friends, was able to purchase the computer, while one of his friends failed to obtain a similar laptop. The perception that an especially hot item, such as a laptop, is in short supply is a strategy many retailers impose to try to draw customers, such as Karner and his friends, according to Customer Growth Partners, a market research and strategy firm. The Mall of America store had been planning for Black Friday since September, said Brandon Bowen, general manager of Best Buy at MOA. To ensure the safety of customers and to keep them from running into the store and âÄúcausing chaos,âÄù mall security set up barricades and posts for lines. Last year in New York, a Wal-Mart employee was trampled to death as customers rushed through the doors. Even with numerous checkout lines, some customers complained about the long lines. âÄúThere have been times when I have literally had to wait an hour in line,âÄù John Boesche, a senior in high school, said. After exploring the deals at the mall, Boesche and his friends planned to drive 20 minutes to a Target. Boesche, who was out on Black Friday for the fifth year, said crowds were especially chaotic this year. âÄúIt really depends on where you go,âÄù University student Shirley Yao said. The mall filled up at around 10 a.m. when customers who did not get up for the doorbusters showed up, said Yao, a self-described âÄúhardcoreâÄù shopper. Yao, who arrived at the mall at 4 a.m., planned to stay and shop until the early afternoon. âÄúI kind of just do a sweep of all the stores that I normally go to, and then after that I try to limit myself and try not to go overboard,âÄù Yao said. Retailers should expect record fourth-quarter earnings this holiday season, said Customer Growth Partners President Craig Johnson. Coming off the worst holiday season for retailers in decades, retailers this year should expect a 2.4 percent sales growth from last year, he said. âÄúIf youâÄôre running a retail business that doesnâÄôt make money each year until Black Friday, you should be fired by the next Friday,âÄù Johnson said in a statement.