Mall stores opening early Black Friday

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Teen retailers like Gap and Aeropostale will open at midnight. It'll be seven hours more before all of the center's stores are open that Friday as the Christmas shopping season officially begins.

"I've got one tier (opening) at 4 a.m. and another tier at 6 a.m." said Lisa Crain, general manager of the Woodbury shopping center. Plus, "I have one store opening on Thanksgiving Day."

Welcome to Black Friday 2011, where store openings are more jumbled than ever as more retailers race to open ultra-early, while others resist the tide.

At Rosedale Center, nine stores (and counting) will open at midnight, mostly department stores and teen retailers. The rest will open at 5 a.m.

"The difficulty of that is, shopping centers by their nature have a lot of stores under one roof, and not all the stores necessarily subscribe to that approach - the super-early opening," said Rollin Hunsicker, Rosedale's general manager.

This will be the first Black Friday that most malls have had midnight store openings. Nobody's quite sure what to expect. Some anticipate that shoppers will come in waves.

"My best guess is that there will be a rush from midnight to 3 (a.m.), and then another wave of shoppers who come out at 6 a.m.," said Liz Ostrander, a Rosedale spokeswoman.

At Rosedale, the push for midnight openings came from its department stores, which were reacting to announcements from Target, Kohl's
and other big-box rivals. Then youth-oriented retailers like American Eagle, Hollister and Abercrombie & Fitch wanted to join the midnight party.

And for good reason: Black Friday appeals to a younger crowd. A new survey from the National Retail Federation shows 55 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds say they'll definitely shop during the three days after Thanksgiving. Among senior citizens, it's just 10 percent.

Mall of America is packed with stores for young shoppers, and more than 100 stores there will open at midnight. The Bloomington megamall drew nearly 200,000 shoppers on Black Friday last year.

But it also means hundreds of other Mall of America stores and kiosks won't be open at midnight. Nordstrom is the most prominent resister. The upscale retailer won't even put up Christmas decorations until Thanksgiving is over.

"Why? Well, we just like the idea of celebrating one holiday at a time," Nordstrom said in a message posted at its entrance. Plenty of Americans agree, seeing no need to open stores at such odd hours.

But others like the idea. At Mall of America, major retailers like Macy's, H&M and Marshalls are among the midnight crowd. So are dozens of smaller outfits - including food-court operator Pita Pit.

"When I got the option to open at midnight, I thought, 'Sweet, let's do it,' " said store manager Bryan Beno. "I noticed that a lot of food-court businesses were not opening at midnight, so I definitely jumped on the ball there."

Pita Pit offers a breakfast pita - eggs and hash browns stuffed in a pita - for shoppers with midnight munchies. And Beno knows the advantage of being open at nontraditional times.

"We were open for Easter last year, and it was just us and McDonald's," he said. "We were slammed. We were busy all day. It completely caught me by surprise."

But glamorous it ain't. Beno plans to work a 23-hour shift on Black Friday, starting with prep work at 11 p.m. Thanksgiving night. He's counting on energy drinks and the Black Friday rush to pull him through.

"I'm excited to see what happens. It'll be a fun day, that's for sure."

At Maplewood Mall, at least 18 stores will open at midnight on Black Friday, said marketing director Heather Haigh. That includes major retailers like Macy's and Kohl's, but also some small operators like Pretzelmaker.

"The remainder of the mall, including our famous spin wheel, will open at 4 a.m.," she said.

Overall, mall managers say they're trying to be flexible about the staggered Black Friday openings.

"As landlords of the property, we want to accommodate our stores as much as possible," said Crain of Woodbury Lakes. "We want them to be successful and generate sales. So if they want to be open at midnight, that's great."

Besides, Crain added, "The tenants are really excited about it. In the old days, they would complain about being open so early. But they think it's great opening at midnight. They're psyched."

Courtesy: twincities

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