Shoppers headed out to some of the city’s newest stores early Friday to see fresh deals and get deep discounts on one of the biggest retail days of the year.
The Outlet Collection at Riverwalk, in downtown New Orleans, celebrated its first Black Friday, while some big-box chains welcomed customers at new locations throughout the city.
At the Outlet Collection at Riverwalk, shopping got off to a slow start as tourists and some locals slowly trickled in after the mall’s doors opened at 5 a.m.
“It’s my first time here. I’m visiting from San Diego,” retiree Gloria Rickey, 70, said. “I’m surprised that there was no crowd. I was one of the first people in the door.”
Rickey said only a few people were lined up outside before the outlet opened. She said she was thankful for the peace and quiet, however — and for the “great deals.” By 7 a.m., she said, she had already filled a large shopping bag with at least $350 worth of merchandise.
Some shoppers paused for a breakfast break at the outlet’s Cafe du Monde outlet, which was about half-full after 6:30 a.m.
Some stores, such as Johnston & Murphy, Kenneth Cole and Lucky Brand, were still sparsely populated after 7 a.m., while others, such as Forever 21 and Coach, were starting to see a little more traffic.
“It’s my first time coming back to the Riverwalk since Hurricane Katrina, actually,” Dallas resident and teacher Alicia Bailey, 39, said as she shopped with her cousins in Coach. “It’s awesome. They’ve really expanded and added a lot of stores and made it more interesting.”
Formerly called the Riverwalk Marketplace, the shopping center opened in 1986 as a retail and entertainment destination designed to help open up the formerly industrial riverfront. In May, the Howard Hughes Corp. reopened it as an outlet mall after $82 million in renovations.
Although the shopping center had been open for nearly 30 years, it had never had a Black Friday sales event, said Carly Plotkin, the marketing manager. Now, retailers there are thrilled to kick-start the highly anticipated holiday season, she said.
On Friday, the mall opened its doors at 5 a.m. to let shoppers in from the cold, even though the retail stores did not open until 6. Early bird shoppers got special deals, such as gift cards from Neiman Marcus, ranging anywhere from $10 to $1,000, for the first 100 customers in line.
Coach offered 50 percent off customers’ entire purchases, plus an additional 40 percent off clearance items. Fossil, the Puma Store, Chico’s Outlet and Carter’s Baby and Kids also offered 50 percent off on everything in their stores, and Gap offered an additional 20 percent off purchases of $75 or more.
Although Black Friday may have gotten off to a slow start at the Riverwalk’s retail shops, the riverside mall has been doing “phenomenally well” in the six months it has been open, according to General Manager Frank Quinn. It drew more than 1 million shoppers in its first 10 weeks.
The stores hope to keep up the momentum for the rest of the holiday season, he said. To that end, the mall has put up special decorations, including a 40-foot-tall Christmas tree on the Spanish Plaza. An exterior lighting system also syncs with an outdoor display set up on the Spanish Plaza by the Downtown Development District.
Stores like those at the Riverwalk put in extra effort this time of year for good reason. The crucial period between Thanksgiving and Christmas allows retailers to rack up as much as 40 percent of their annual sales.
The Outlet Collection at Riverwalk had plenty of competition in trying to attract local customers during the highly competitive Black Friday sales events.
Wal-Mart, which reopened two local stores over the summer after being closed for nine years, was one of many retailers around the city that kicked off Black Friday deals as early as 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day.
The stores planned for three different Black Friday sales events, offering hundreds of deals for the entire family, including video games, electronics, toys, clothing, jewelry and more.
Although Costco didn’t offer the Thanksgiving Day sales that some area big-box stores did, the membership-only company is extending sales from Friday until Sunday. The company, which opened its first New Orleans store in a 148,000-square-foot warehouse just off South Carrollton Avenue in September 2013, is offering a free cookbook to members during that time.
Other deals include a $40 iTunes card with the purchase of an iPad Air, $150 off an HP Envy TouchSmart laptop and $50 off an Ion Bluetooth speaker.
Before the Thanksgiving weekend started, Costco officials were adamant that Friday through Sunday deals would be enough to satisfy customers as well as employees.
“Our employees work especially hard during the holiday season, and we simply believe that they deserve the opportunity to spend Thanksgiving with their families,” a Costco spokesman said, according to the website ThinkProgress.
“Nothing more complicated than that,” the spokesman added.