Singing River mall busts on Black Friday but booms on cell phone sales

By Sylvia Hall - bio | email

GAUTIER, MS (WLOX) - Lynn Smith plans for Black Friday all year long. It's the only day of the year that she can squeeze so much out of the money she's set aside for holiday gifts. She's used to fighting crowds the day after Thanksgiving, but she noticed something different this year.

"The lines aren't long," she said. "The lines aren't long at all."

She's not surprised. The economy has everyone holding onto their dollars. Smith has even cut her holiday budget by 75 percent.

"I expected it," she said. "With the economy being the way it is, I expected it not to be that much of a crowd this year."

Retailers count on those crowds coming with cash and credit.

"This is a huge day for retail," said Kim Nyguen, a T-Mobile retail store manager. "We work, we rev up.  A couple of months ago we started preparation for black friday. And it's a huge opportunity for us to reach out to our customers."

Getting customers to reach for the wallets means offering big disounts today. And shoppers like the Lashley sisters started a 5:00am to find the best bargains.

"We've gone crazy, and early," said 16-year-old Brittney Lashley.  "So we've gone everywhere and just started shopping for anything we could get for a good deal."

One of their favorite stops was the T-Mobile kiosk.

"I got a Samsung," said 11-year-old Savanna Lashley. "And I got this Nokia thing that was awesome and I wanted it really bad," added Brittney Lashley.

New technology turned out to be a good deal for them and plenty of others. The T-Mobile kiosk was one of the few stores in the mall enjoying a steady flow of people.  Even those trying to cut back can't give up their cell phones, and retailers know it.

"We do a lot better during the holidays, we launch a lot of cool new handsets, a lot of new technology," said Nyguen. "I expect us to hit it big this holiday season."

Retailers expect a larger crowd later and over the weekend, when people who usually avoid the early morning rush start shopping.

"They're assuming that alot of people are going to be here in the early hours, so we're probably gonna pick up some more later," said Nguyen.