(FOX 11 / CNS) Thousands of deal-hungry Southern Californians continued to stream into stores and malls today following an extra early start on the Black Friday shopping season.
With many stores opening Thanksgiving Day evening, there was little need for customers to camp outside stores. At Glendale Galleria, shoppers who were let into more than 30 shops and
department stores, including Macy's, Target and J.C. Penney, that opened at 8p.m. Thursday sought deals into the wee morning hours, mall General Manager Larry Martin said.
Because of the early opening, "what we have seen is a spreading out of traffic,'' Martin said, with different groups of customers coming in at different times. Lines formed mostly outside clothing and electronics shops, Martin said. Coffee shops and the restaurants were also open to keep shoppers' energy up.
Retailers are reporting that "sales are very, very strong,'' Martin said, and crowds have been calm, with none of the flare-ups seen elsewhere and in years past.
The day after Thanksgiving has become known as Black Friday, as it begins the Christmas shopping season, when retailers achieve a profit for the year after operating at a break-even point or loss.
It is also a reference to the accounting practice of using black ink, or being "in the black,'' to denote profits.
It is a day known for customers lining up outside stores and shopping centers in the cold -- even camping for several days -- awaiting earlier-than-usual opening times to take advantage of sale prices, some in effect for just a few hours.
The top reason for shopping on Black Friday are the discounts. The Accenture Holiday Shopping Survey found that among the 55 percent survey who said they would shop on Black Friday, 32 percent said their primary motivation was to take advantage of "doorbuster'' deals.
The survey found that the top choices on consumers' shopping lists are gift cards (56 percent), apparel (54 percent), toys (44 percent) and personal electronics (27 percent).
The online survey of 500 customers was conducted in September.
Orange County, CA:
The Christmas shopping season, which traditionally has started the day after Thanksgiving but is creeping up earlier every year, is expected to be 5 percent better for retailers this year, a Chapman University economist predicts.
An improving job market, rising home prices, a record-setting stock market and the "wealth factor,'' is fueling consumer confidence, said Esmael Adibi, director of the A. Gary Anderson Center for Economic Research at Chapman.
Cheaper gas helps, too, he added. "Gas prices were hovering around four bucks, now is under $3.50, and we think gas prices are headed even lower,'' Adibi said. The only damper was increased Social Security taxes, that affects lower-income residents, Adibi said.
Shopping centers owned by Irvine Company, which include Fashion Island and The Market Place, are already doing better this year than all of November 2012, said Stacie Ellis, the company's director of marketing.
"All of our centers are running increases in traffic,'' Ellis said. "I'd say we're optimistic. It's retail so you never know what's going to happen, but we're definitely optimistic.''
Retail traffic at Irvine Company stores started trending up around Halloween, Ellis said.
"You're seeing people shopping earlier,'' Ellis said. South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa this year is besting last year's sales, said the shopping center's marketing director, Debra Gunn Downing. "We've seen a double digit increase over last year and last year was our best year ever,'' Downing said. "We began to see holiday shopping early in November, so we expect a very strong season.''
South Coast Plaza has about 20 new stores that opened this year so there's "a lot of newness in terms of the retail environment,'' Downing said.