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Black Friday haters still expected to spend more on gifts this holiday season than last

Jason Cato
| Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2012, 10:36 p.m.
Michelle Parker of the South Side gets some shopping done early at Monroeville Mall on Wednesday, November 21, 2012. 
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
Michelle Parker of the South Side gets some shopping done early at Monroeville Mall on Wednesday, November 21, 2012. Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review

Robert Smith sauntered through South Hills Village this week clutching a red shopping bag containing some of the Christmas gifts he planned to buy.

Only about a third finished with his shopping, Smith, 69, of Upper St. Clair said he would skip Black Friday and finish his list closer to Dec. 25.

“We did that last year for the first time,” Smith said of the post-Thanksgiving shopping holiday. “We got here at 4 a.m. By 6 a.m., I was home in bed.”

He looks to join a growing group staying away from Black Friday weekend this year. The National Retail Federation estimated that 147 million people plan to shop this weekend, down from 152 million who planned to do the same in 2011.

Smith guessed he would be part of the crowd that surveys found will spend more on gifts this holiday season than last.

The National Retail Federation estimates the average consumer plans to spend an average of $750 on gifts and holiday goods this year, compared with $740 last year.

“We'll exceed that,” said Smith, the father of two grown children, a 15-year-old son and several grandchildren. “As the kids grow up, the gifts get more expensive.”

Jonathan and Courtney Rothwell, 30-somethings from Venetia, raised their per-person spending plans this holiday season but still guessed they would come in under the national average.

“We don't have kids, so it's not as much,” said Jonathan Rothwell, who estimated he and his wife will spend about $600 total. “But we're hosting Thanksgiving this year, too, and we don't usually do that.”

An annual holiday shopping survey by consultant Accenture found that consumers expect to spend an average of $582 this season, with nearly a quarter planning to spend more than $750.

The International Council of Shopping Centers also projects people will spend more this year. Nearly a quarter of respondents to the ICSC-Goldman Sachs 2012 Holiday Spending Intentions Survey said they plan to spend more or substantially more on gifts. That represents the largest increase since ICSC started asking the question in 2004.

In all, holiday spending this year is expected to increase 4.1 percent to $586.1 billion, the federation forecasts.

Jeff Green, a Phoenix-based retail marketing consultant, believes sales will be up this year between 3 percent and 5 percent overall.

“Everyone is pretty bullish on the season,” Green said. “It's just a question of how bullish.”

There are five shopping weekends this year, “which doesn't happen very often and is a big issue,” he said.

Also big is the fact that the weather is more seasonal this year compared with warmer temperatures in 2011 and that this is shaping up to be a nice weekend for most of the country, which should help get people out for Black Friday and the days following.

“Black Friday now really means a four-day weekend,” Green said.

He warned consumers not to wait for specific products they want, as inventory levels are lower this year and supplies could run out for apparel, popular toys and, to an extent, consumer electronics.

“By the weekend before Christmas, we're likely to see some stuff out of stock,” Green said.

That comes as welcome news for area malls and retailers.

“Traditionally, the season starts this Friday,” said Tom Gerber, general manager of the Monroeville Mall. “One expectation from what we see and what we hear is that we are going to mirror the national figures.”

Mall management tracks monthly sales, but the figures are not made public, Gerber said.

A spokesman for Simon Property Group, which owns Ross Park Mall and South Hills Village, declined to discuss holiday shopping forecasts.

“We definitely see things building,” Gerber said, noting the number of mall holiday coupon books distributed and turnout for a Santa Claus event on Nov. 10.

“Really, once Halloween is over, we get geared for Christmas. We definitely are very optimistic about the holiday season, as are our tenants.”

Most small business owners believe things will remain mostly the same as last year as far as this weekend goes, a new survey found.

Six out of 10 business owners expect sales from Black Friday through Cyber Monday will be unchanged, while a quarter expect sales to increase 4 percent or more, according to a Newtek Business Services survey released on Wednesday.

Jack Cohen, owner of S.W. Randall Toyes & Giftes, hopes for the best locally.

“We had a better Light Up weekend than last year, so that's a good sign,” said Cohen, who owns shops in Downtown, Squirrel Hill and Shadyside. “We're assuming it will be better or the same, but we'll see what is in the cards. We can't even guess. You'd have to be a magician.”

Jason Cato is a staff writer forTrib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7936 or

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