Early sales not expected to affect Black Friday

| Wednesday, Nov. 24, 2010

Black Friday's weather forecast is shaping up to be chilly and damp, but that's not expected to hinder shoppers taking advantage of longer hours at department, discount and other major stores.

Despite early sales that promised the same prices available after Thanksgiving, Friday "still is going to be huge this year," Duquesne University marketing professor Audrey Guskey said Tuesday. "Black Friday will be the biggest shopping day of the year."

The Saturday before Christmas Day often takes that title.

About 31 percent of consumers will shop on Friday, up from 26 percent last year, the International Council of Shopping Centers said. That amounts to 74 million people ages 16 and older out and about.

More retailers this year are stretching into the Thursday holiday. Toys "R" Us, Kmart, Sears and Wal-Mart will open for at least a few hours on Thanksgiving Day.

On Friday, Bon-Ton and Kohl's stores open at 3 a.m. Many other major merchants such as Macy's, J.C. Penney, Target and Sears open at 4 a.m., with Best Buy and Kmart at 5 a.m.

Friday will be mostly cloudy, with snow and rain showers likely in the morning and a chance of snow in the afternoon, said John Darnley, meteorologist with the National Weather Service. Temperatures will be steady at around 34.

Thursday night shoppers who head to outlet centers after dinner should encounter wet weather, too. Rain is likely in the evening with temperatures in the low 30s, and rain and snow will fall after midnight.

The cold snap will help stores clear out coats, portable heaters and other cold weather items that lingered on shelves through the warm autumn, said Bill Kirk, CEO of Weather Trends International of Bethlehem in Lehigh County.

Higher gasoline prices, up 10 percent from a year ago, also won't discourage shopping, experts said.

The National Retail Federation forecosts total holiday sales of $447 billion this year, up 2.3 percent. This season is expected to be the strongest since 2006.

Here are Black Friday opening times for some Western Pennsylvania retail centers:

• Beaver Valley Mall, 5 a.m., some stores open at 4 a.m.

• Century III Mall, West Mifflin, 5 a.m.

• Galleria at Pittsburgh Mills, Frazer, 6 a.m. officially, but many stores open at 5 a.m.

• Galleria of Mt. Lebanon, 8 a.m., Gymboree, Learning Express at 6 a.m.

• Grove City Premium Outlets, Mercer County, midnight.

• Monroeville Mall, 6 a.m.

• Ross Park Mall, 5 a.m.

• South Hills Villlage, Bethel Park and Upper St. Clair, 5 a.m.; Banana Republic, New York & Co. and Disney Store open at midnight.

• Tanger Outlet Center, South Strabane, Washington County, midnight.

• Washington Crown Center, North Franklin, Washington County, 5 a.m.

• Westmoreland Mall, 6 a.m., many stores open earlier.

Additional Information:

Top 6 gifts for 2010

1. Gift cards, 66% compared to 59% last year

2. Clothing, down from No. 1 last year

3. Toys or games

4. Music, compact discs or digital video discs

5. Cash

6. Consumer electronics, such as e-readers, tablet computers.

Source: International Council of Shopping Centers/Goldman Sachs consumer survey.

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