Clark County store-only retail sales
2012 — $564 million
2011 — $539 million
2010 — $525 million
2009 — $494 million
2008 — $497 million
SOURCE: Washington Department of Revenue
Socks, boots and televisions were selling at a brisk pace at the Salmon Creek Fred Meyer just after 5 a.m. Friday.
That’s when the doors opened to about 150 shoppers who had peacefully lined up outside to wait for Black Friday bargains. As they filed inside, shaking off the freezing temperatures, some customers hand-carried shopping baskets while others grabbed the store’s jumbo grocery carts.
Most wasted no time as they quickly zeroed in on their objectives. By 5:03 a.m., store shoppers stood elbow-to-elbow and pawed through several large tables heaped with half-priced socks. By 5:05 a.m., the store had sold out of the 60-inch TVs it advertised for $599, said Sue Ryland, who works at the Portland buying office for Fred Meyer and was in the Salmon Creek store Friday morning.
“We started out with eight (60-inch TVs),” she said. Ryland expected traffic to stay busy through the noontime end of Fred Meyer’s Black Friday sale.
The term was coined in the 1960s for the day-after-Thanksgiving selling that jump-starts the retail sector’s most profitable, “black ink” quarter of the year. But many national retailers started the Black Friday tradition even earlier this year, prompting thousands of Clark County residents to shop on Thanksgiving.
Among the stores that launched Black Friday on Thursday were: three Vancouver Walmart stores, which opened at 6 p.m. Thursday; three Target stores and two Kohl’s stores, which opened at 8 p.m. Thursday; and some stores at Westfield Vancouver mall, which opened at 8 p.m. Thursday to crowds of shoppers searching for deals, according to Deanna Hansen, store manager of J.C. Penney at Westfield Vancouver.
“Our juniors department doors (on the mall’s south side) were the busiest,” Hansen said when asked on Friday morning about her store’s Thursday night opening.
She had counted a crowd of about 480 shoppers rushing through the doors, Hansen said. She said many of the shoppers went straight for the sale-priced boots. Others hurried upstairs to the home department, where bath towels were selling for $4.88 and luggage sets were priced at $39.99.
$171.4 million last year
Last year’s holiday season saw a 1.5 percent sales increase for Clark County’s general merchandise stores, which rang up sales of $171.4 million in the last three months of 2012, according to the Washington State Department of Revenue. This year the National Retail Federation expects U.S. retail sales to be up 4 percent, reaching $602 billion in November-December. That would be greater than last year’s 3.5 percent growth, but below the pace of 6 percent before the recession.
Retail sales at all stores countywide reached $564 million in the three months ending in December 2012, a 4.8 percent increase that was dominated by rising automobile sales.
Retail analysts say this year’s earlier store openings reflect competition between retailers vying for the finite dollar amounts budgeted by shoppers who continue to face stagnant wages and economic uncertainty.
“I suppose this helps the economy,” said Rena McCarroll of Washougal, who stood outside the Fred Meyer store at 4:45 a.m. She was there to buy Romeo-style slip-on shoes at 50 percent off the regular $70 price as a gift for her boyfriend.
The price, McCarroll reasoned, would also help stretch the maximum $500 holiday budget she has set for herself this year.
“I work full time, but my budget is tight,” said McCarroll, who had brought her daughter, Tiann McCarroll, along on the shopping trip.
Other Fred Meyer shoppers came for specific advertised items, such as the half-priced socks.
“I come here every year,” said Nancy VanDyne, her shopping cart piled high with bundles of white crew socks for her two adult sons. She was accompanied by her son, Bradley, 23, who said socks will be a welcome present this year.
“I’m almost out of socks,” he said. “They are a good gift once you get a little older.”
Shopping companions Amber Suzara and Heather Fuller laughed at the thought of socks creating joy for their much-younger children.
“No, they wouldn’t be excited about socks,” said Suzara, a Kalama mother with an 8-year-old daughter and a 5-year-old son.
Fuller said her 7-year-old twin sons are more interested in remote-control cars and video games.
The two Black Friday companions said they were thrown off by this year’s earlier store openings, which caused them to change their annual shopping tradition. The pair used to start shopping at midnight on Thanksgiving.
“We usually meet at Toys R Us,” Fuller said.
The Jantzen Beach store opened at 5 p.m. Thursday, which would have cut into their Thanksgiving celebrations, the friends said.
“It just didn’t feel right,” Fuller said.