On the biggest shopping day of the year, fights broke out in the food court at Los Cerritos Center and at a Best Buy in Burbank. At the Torrance Toys R Us the night before, latecomers tried in vain to bribe early-bird shoppers into letting them cut in line outside the store. At the Glendale Galleria and Westfield Century City, frustrated drivers reported circling the parking structures for an hour Friday looking for a spot.Black Friday is like bloodsport for many shoppers, apparently, "For Many Black Friday Shoppers, Fighting the Crowds Is a Team Effort":
It was a strong start for the crucial holiday season, with retailers and industry watchers reporting longer lines than last year and brisk business at the cash registers.
More mall madness is on the way this weekend as bargain-hungry shoppers scour the shelves for fresh discounts.
"The good news is that the retailers got a lot of traffic, and those that did come out came out to buy," said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst at market research firm NPD Group. "If you're going to venture into those crowds and take those hours out of your normal sleeping, you're going to spend money. You'd have to be crazy to go out there and not buy."
For Aliso Viejo resident Eric Walsh, 28, shopping hell is lugging around women's clothing from Banana Republic.Also, "Retail Roundup":
Taking a break with his son tucked in a stroller, Walsh tried to calculate the amount of time each stuffed bag of pink and beige apparel cost him.
"About 21/2 hours," he said, smirking. The journey started at 8 a.m., fighting the crowds and doing the holiday shuffle to the cash register.
"It's like standing in line for an hour at Disneyland for a 2-minute ride," said Walsh, who added that his wife stood in line at the Gap to save 50% on clothes. "Was it worth it? I don't know, maybe to her."
When it comes to Black Friday, A.J. Castro, 27, knows what he's doing.
At 11 p.m. on Thanksgiving, the Burbank actor and several warmly bundled friends grabbed spots near the front of the line at the Target at the Burbank Empire Center, having mapped out the store's layout and thoroughly studied its circular.
One member was angling for an X-box console, the rest were going for cheap televisions.
"Women, children, it doesn't matter," Castro joked. "No one is standing in my way."
Said his friend, actress Jenna Nickerson, 23, of Sherman Oaks: "You've got to attack it; you have to have a plan. We're helping out the economy."
It was a record day for spending, with consumers buying $10.69 billion worth of merchandise at brick-and-mortar stores, a 0.3% rise over last year, according to ShopperTrak RCT Corp., a research firm that monitors spending at more than 50,000 retail stores. Foot traffic was up 2.2%.
Although the sales increase -- which does not include online spending -- was not as strong as many industry watchers had expected, ShopperTrak noted that earlier-than-ever deals this year drove many shoppers to the malls well before Black Friday.
That meant some unexpected strength in early November that may have thinned business on the day after Thanksgiving: Sales and traffic for the first two weeks of the month through Nov. 13 increased 6.1% and 6.2%, respectively, versus the same two weeks in 2009, ShopperTrak said.
"The early weeks in November were really strong, so the fact we still had an increase on Black Friday, I think that sets us up for a pretty good holiday season," said Bill Martin, ShopperTrak founder.