COLUMBIA — On Black Friday, bargain-hopefuls patiently waited in line to enter Columbia Mall at 6 a.m.
The first 500 “early birds” to enter the mall were given a goodie bag filled with items such as coupons and candy.
Sonja Derboven, marketing manager for Columbia Mall, said that customers camped out the previous evening in cold temperatures — the low was recorded at a chilly 28 degrees.
Black Friday, the day after families nationwide feast in thanks on mounds of turkey and mouth-watering pumpkin pie, traditionally marks the start of the holiday shopping season.
According to a survey by The National Retail Federation, sales this year increased by 4.8 percent and stores saw more than 147 million shoppers nationwide.
While more shoppers hit the stores last weekend than in 2006, they managed to spend less money. On average, consumers spent about $350, a 3.5 percent decrease from last year. This number includes Saturday and projected Sunday sales as well as Friday’s, according to a NRF release.
The NRF reported that while expensive purchases like high-definition televisions were hot last year, this year consumers leaned toward lower priced items, such as digital photo frames.
Some Columbia stores did promotions to lure shoppers into their stores, while others had nothing special planned for Friday’s shopping.
Manhattan Closet, a women’s boutique located downtown at 906 E. Broadway, rewarded its loyal customers by mailing a personalized holiday card with a gift card inside.
And at Manhattan Closet, not one particular brand was demanded over another.
“We had additional inventory, especially for our accessories since those are popular gift ideas,” store owner Sarah Hodapp said.
Alpine Shop, located at 1102 E. Broadway, did not offer any specials specifically for Black Friday — the outdoor shop’s sales began about a week prior.
Greg Kinkeade, the store manager, said sales were up last weekend.
“It was our biggest weekend in store history,” Kinkeade said. “We were over projection by about 30 to 40 percent,” he added.
Columbia Photo at 310 N. Tenth St also saw an increase in sales.
Kim Humphreys, office manager, said a lot of behind-the-scenes work was done in preparation for the biggest shopping day of the year. “We spent a lot of time training personnel to handle the influx as well as making sure our supplies were ready,” Humphreys said.
What were the hot items in Columbia this year?
At Alpine Shop, Kinkeade said, “North Face, Under Armour and Uggs.”
Humphreys said that Columbia Photo’s most popular items were digital cameras and custom frames, while similar items were also in demand at Columbia Mall.
“Electronics were very popular on Friday,” Derboven said.
Both Manhattan Closet and the Alpine Shop have implemented extended holiday hours while Columbia Mall will be open longer as the the holidays draw near.
Consumers who stayed away from stores this weekend were still able to shop till they logged off.
Yesterday was Cyber Monday — a term marking the unofficial start to the online holiday shopping season by cybermonday.com.
According to a release from the NRF, about 70 percent of online retailers planned promotions for Cyber Monday and over 72 million consumers were projected to shop online.
Even if you missed both of these shopping days, many stores are discounting their merchandise through December.
“We are going to mix it up a little bit and have different promotions through the holiday season,” Hodapp said.