It was still dark outside when Black Friday shoppers began lining up at Macy’s at Vancouver Mall. The store opened at 6 a.m., and about 12 people had lined up by then.
“We’re all shopaholics,” said Tammy Hallman, one of the shoppers. “Gotta be here for the deals.”
Hallman and the others gathered weren’t just there for the deals, however. For these families, Black Friday shopping is a tradition.
When the entire mall opened its doors at 8 a.m., there were lines outside Old Navy, Gamestop and J.C. Penny, too. Black Friday seemed to return to its pre-pandemic popularity as the parking lots filled and store owners had larger crowds return with no building capacity limits.
Gail Van did not go out for Black Friday shopping last year but counts the day among her family’s traditions.
“It’s just fun to come out and explore. You can’t explore everything online as you can here,” said Van.
Hallman did go shopping on Black Friday in 2020. She likes seeing the products and said it’s more fun in person.
“You want to enjoy being around the people and shopping. It’s festive. As long as nobody steals anything out of our carts, we’re all right, right girls?” laughed Hallman.
Angela Reese was another among the early morning shoppers. She started the shopping tradition with her mother, who died a few years ago and now brings her daughter to the shops on Black Friday.
“If you notice everyone that’s out here — there’s groups of two, three, four, six people. This is like a family event, not just tradition, but something you do together,” she said. Reese groups the shopping day with other seasonal events, such as getting a Christmas tree and going to see the Nutcracker. “When else are you going to get your teenager out of bed happily at 4 in the morning to go shopping with you?”
“It’s not the deals, it’s the people,” she said before heading inside.
By noon, the parking lot at the mall was nearly full and many people walked the building’s hallways carrying bags of purchased goods.
“It’s going really well,” said Amy Tanska, mall marketing manager. “It feels like we skipped over 2020 finally and it’s back to a Black Friday with controlled chaos shopping going on and lots of great deals.
“I think there’s some comfort in knowing the majority of the population is vaccinated and also knowing there’s a lot of inventory in stock that people can get their hands on and get their gifts now rather than worry about it being delivered from an online order,” said Tanska.
“Today, we’ve been doing amazing,” said Candy Baker, assistant manager of customer operations at Old Navy. “We’ve definitely been bringing in more traffic than we thought we were going to.”
Like other stores, the Old Navy at Vancouver Mall did not open at midnight or on Thanksgiving. Baker said she thinks that contributed to the store’s busy Black Friday showing. But also, she credits the sales the store offered on pajamas, hoodies and denim.
“They love our pajamas,” said Baker. Customers, she added, seemed excited to be there.
And how did business compare to years before the pandemic?
“We’re a little busier now than we were in 2019,” estimated Baker. “I feel like we’ve got a little more business going right now. I think, like I said, it’s because we opened later rather than earlier.”
Since April, traffic at the mall has been trending higher this year than it did in 2019, said Tanska. This Black Friday is in line with that trend.
Exact traffic numbers for Black Friday at the mall won’t be tabulated until after the weekend, however.
Dana Chinakos is the store manager at Fuego. She’s seen a varied Black Friday experience this year than in years past.
“It’s kind of a different shopping vibe,” said Chinakos. She’s seen more people thinking about what they’re buying before buying it as opposed to people grabbing things just because they’re on sale.
“So far, it’s steady,” she said. “It’s not as busy as it was two years ago, before COVID, but it’s much more steady than it was last year.”
Chinakos thinks more people are trying to get their shopping done before December because of supply chain issues.
“I think people are afraid (stores are) going to be sold out by Christmas, so they’re doing it now as opposed to waiting until the last minute,” she said. For that reason, Chinakos fears last-minute shopping will be minimal.
For those who ventured out to the mall on Black Friday, as opposed to ordering things online, it was a communal event.
“I wanted to be out with people. I’m so tired of just being at home,” said afternoon shopper Renee Lirsen. “I’ve ordered everything online; I want to see the stuff.”