For many Minnesotans, Black Friday looked a lot like it did before the pandemic.
There were virtually no masks, no capacity rules, no distancing signs and no glass between the kids and Santa Claus.
But in many ways, Black Friday was also no longer the frenetic marathon it was in the decade before the pandemic. With so many sales starting weeks ago, the morning stops and long queues of buyers were mostly gone. Inflation was a major concern and many buyers talked about sticking to their budget.
“I really want a bargain,” Chanhassen’s Julie Nessly said as she walked to the Scheels store at the Eden Prairie Center shortly before 7 a.m. “If it’s not a good deal, I won’t buy it.”
Nessly and her daughter-in-law arrived at the Scheels store when it opened to look for ideas for their outdoor-loving husbands and to get the bargains before they left.
But at the Southdale Center in Edina, the state’s oldest mall, there were only 20 cars in the Macy’s parking lot when the mall’s general manager, Judy Tullius, arrived shortly before it opened at 6 a.m. in the morning.
“The way people shop has definitely changed,” she said. “Macy’s has its Black Friday deals all week, so there was no incentive to come at 6 a.m.”
The holiday shopping season lengthened during the pandemic years, when people shopped more online in 2020 due to health concerns and earlier in 2021 due to supply chain issues.
This year, retailers launched promotions last month to help relieve excess inventory. Even so, most of the revenue gains they were seeing were due to prices being shaped by the highest rate of inflation in 40 years.
US retail sales rose 7.9% in October; however, when adjusted for inflation, volume sales actually fell 0.4%, according to analytics firm GlobalData.
The National Retail Federation – the largest retail group – expects growth in holiday sales in stores and online to slow to a range of 6% to 8%, from growth of 13.5 % one year ago. However, these figures are not adjusted for inflation. Actual spending may even be down from a year ago.
According to a study by consulting firm Accenture, 54% of consumers in the Twin Cities, the most of any metro area surveyed, plan to shop in-store this holiday.
“Maybe it’s not as Black Friday or Cyber Monday blockbuster as it could have been,” said Kelsey Robinson, senior partner in the San Francisco office of McKinsey & Co. “It’s still going to be two big shopping days.”
The biggest crowd in the Twin Cities at the start of Black Friday was at the largest mall: More than 10,000 people entered the Mall of America in Bloomington during the first hour after it opened at 7 a.m.
Hailey Rost, a 14-year-old from Lakeville, said she was happy to join her mother and aunt on a morning run to the mall. “They did it [for a while] and we can finally go this year,” she said.
While there looking for deals, Rost said she really wanted to be in the crowd and explore the mall.
“Experience is key,” said Jill Renslow, the mall’s executive vice president of business development and marketing.
“We are much more than a shopping center and the key to our success is the diversification of all our uses, from retail, restaurants, entertainment and hospitality,” she said.
In downtown Minneapolis, a long-standing tradition was revived at the site of the Dayton department store, which anchored the Twin Cities shopping scene for much of the 20th century. Santa Bears, which Dayton first sold for $10 in 1984, were on sale again in what is now called Dayton’s Project.
The Dayton store created new versions of Santa’s bear every year until 2007. Shoppers built collections of teddy bears. Dayton’s produced TV specials about them and even worked with General Mills on a Santa Bear promotion featuring Cinnamon Toast crunchy cereal.
A collection of Santa’s bears is also part of the Dayton’s Project holiday storefront, which sits along the Nicollet Mall between 7th and 8th Streets.
In Loring Park, on the outskirts of downtown, craft vendors, food trucks and artists have set up shop for the annual Holidazzle event, which will take place on weekends until December 18.
By mid-morning, the Target store parking lot in Edina was full. Edina’s Rebecca Peterson had a list of potential gifts as she shopped the toy aisle for Pokemon figures. In addition to her three children, she gives presents to three different families during the holidays.
“Now I’m trying to figure out what would work best, and I feel like if I’m in the store, I can find the best options for them and I can ask other kids for advice,” said she declared.
Friday afternoon, with the sun shining and temperatures in the mid-40s, it was nearly impossible to find a parking spot at the Twin Cities Premium Outlets in Eagan.
“We’re seeing big crowds,” said Sarah Dorrian, the center’s marketing director.
Even though Black Friday isn’t a wild ride anymore, the holiday season should be something of a comeback for the physical retail store, said Jill Standish, global head of retail at Accenture.
“I really think it’s going to be a physical store vacation, which will be really fun to watch,” she said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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