LANSING -- "Black Friday," as the day after Thanksgiving is known in the retail industry, is a day for consumers to join the masses and get an early start on holiday shopping.
But more and more shoppers are avoiding the stress of crowded malls and checkout lines at local malls this holiday season.
Most state retailers are expecting a bumper crop of shoppers this holiday season, according to the Michigan Retailers Association. Sixty-three percent of the retailers surveyed said they expect better holiday sales than last year. Only 6 percent said they expect lower sales.
And it isn't just the “brick-and-mortar” merchants anticipating a profitable holiday season. A survey of online merchants by shop.org found that online merchants expect a windfall as well. The retail trend-tracking organization reports online shoppers plan to use the Internet 89 percent more than last holiday season to comparison shop.
But don't tear down the local malls yet: Shoppers still need the malls and the Internet, often using both to make informed purchases.
Scott Klugman, a public relations officer with shop.org, said the Internet’s growing popularity won’t replace the traditional holiday shopping rushes.
“It’s another shopping channel like shopping in a catalogue, but it’s never going to take over traditional retail,” Klugman said.
The Internet, he said, works hand-in-hand with traditional retailers.
That gives consumers new options such as being able to pick up or return online buys at the local retail store. That leaves some shoppers to hunt online for auction sites and major department store sites for more interesting and less easily available items.
“Definitely more people are using the Internet, but they are not using it as their sole source of retail,” Krugman said, adding that online shopping represents only 5 percent of total retail sales.
But for some customers and businesses, Internet-related fraud is a concern, but Krugman said with the advancement of virus-protection programs, people are now more comfortable with online shopping.
And some larger items with expensive shipping costs, Klugman said, such as refrigerators or televisions, are best bought at a standard store.
Don Floury, owner of the Sears outlet store in Lapeer, said home improvement tools and large appliances are major sellers in the holiday season.
“Stainless steel appliances tend to roll on like a steam roller,” Floury said. “Three or four weeks before Thanksgiving, we tend to sell a lot of larger kitchen appliances.”
Floury said the No. 1 sales around the holidays are large plasma TVs, go-carts and exercise equipment to rid extra holiday pounds.
“There has been a lot of interest in fitness, and a lot of people are coming in under doctor’s direction to purchase treadmills,” Floury said.
Krugman said although holiday crowds can be aggravating for some consumers, a majority of people enjoy shopping in person.
“People don’t go shopping on “Black Friday” because they have to, they do it because they want to be part of the ceremonial kick-off of holiday shopping,” he said. “It’s a family event where shopping online is not a family event.”