Shoppers flock to malls for Black Friday, even with changes in hours, capacity limits
Fox Valley Mall Senior General Manager J. Scott Samson was a happy man on Friday morning.
A jazz trio was playing holiday music in the Aurora mall's Center Park. Children were having photos taken with Santa Claus at the "A Charlie Brown Christmas" display. Two elves passed out goody bags, posed for photos and played with kids.
And the cherry on top: People were carrying shopping bags. Lots of shopping bags.
"Shoppers are relishing the opportunity to get back to things they enjoyed pre-COVID," Samson said, such as shopping with friends and family. They also like trying items on, rather than ordering two or three sizes online and having to return them, he said.
That was the case for Lauren Peterson and Cassidy Carby of Batavia, two college students home for Thanksgiving.
"I like to feel the things," Peterson said of the clothes she was picking for herself.
"It is just something to do. It is time to get together," Carby said.
Asked if they had shopped last year on Black Friday, Peterson responded: "Was it even a thing?"
Foot traffic at the mall was higher in November than last year, Samson said. He suspected people started shopping for Christmas earlier after hearing news reports about shortages of items.
But the No. 1 challenge this year has not been pandemic restrictions, foot traffic or sales dollars, he said. It's a lack of labor. Tenants told him they didn't have the workers to open at 6 a.m. as in previous years. So, many opened at 8 a.m. instead.
Chicago Premium Outlets mall in Aurora did not open on Thanksgiving for the second year in a row. But as usual, parking lots were full Friday morning, with safety-vested men directing cars where to go. In the early afternoon, the entrances were closed for at least an hour because the lots were at capacity.
There were large crowds at Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg.
"We are happy with the traffic thus far and are very encouraged to see shoppers with lots of shopping bags and lines at retailers, which is always a good sign and indicator of a busy holiday shopping season," said Heather Lloyd, the mall's director of marketing and business development.
Bundled-up shoppers scurried from shop to shop at the Deer Park Town Center Friday morning in Deer Park. Many stores were so packed that customers had to line up outside and wait for others to leave before entering.
The parking lot was nearly full, and the crowds were good, reported Angelika Fejklowicz, a marketing coordinator for the mall. To attract consumers, Fejklowicz and a colleague set up a tent and gave away gift cards for mall stores to the first 100 people who were there at 9:30 a.m.
The two had to turn away many people who didn't make the cut.
Parked in a line outside the Bath & Body Works shop, Jenny Cooley of Arlington Heights had coupons and an idea of what she wanted to buy. However, she intended to buy fewer presents this year than in the past.
"A lot of people I know are in decluttering mode, not (making) acquisitions," Cooley said.
Anne Defort of Lake Zurich patiently waited her turn to enter the Lululemon store.
"It's a good way to get a start on Christmas shopping, and after being holed up for so long, it's nice to be outside and getting in the holiday spirit," she said.
Defort, who arrived at the outdoor mall at around 9 a.m., said the weather, while cold, wasn't too bad.
"We could have used a little sprinkling of snowflakes, but that's OK," she said.