For many Minnesotans, Black Friday felt the same as before the pandemic.
There are no masks, no skill rules, no distance markers and no glass between the kids and Santa Claus.
But in many ways, Black Friday isn’t quite the frenzied marathon of the pre-pandemic decade. While many sales started weeks ago, the early morning rushers and long queues of shoppers are nowhere to be found. Inflation was on the mind and many buyers talked about sticking to a budget.
“I definitely want a good deal,” said Julie Nesley of SanHaussen as she walked into the Shiels store in Eden Prairie Center just before 7 a.m. “If it’s not a good deal, I don’t buy it.”
Nestle and her daughter-in-law arrive at a Shiels store that is open to look for ideas for their outdoor husbands and get good deals before they leave.
But at Southdale Center in Edina, the state’s oldest mall, when mall general manager Judy Tullius arrived shortly before the 6 a.m. opening, there were only 20 cars in the Macy’s parking lot.
“The way people shop has definitely changed,” he said. “Macy’s has Black Friday deals all week so there’s no incentive to arrive at 6am”
The holiday shopping season lingered amid pandemics, when people shopped more online in 2020 due to health concerns and in 2021 due to supply chain issues.
This year, retailers started promotions last month to clear excess inventory. Even so, most of the revenue gains they enjoy are driven by prices shaped by the highest inflation rate in 40 years.
U.S. retail sales rose 7.9% in October, although when adjusted for inflation, volume sales actually fell 0.4%, according to analytics firm GlobalData.
The National Retail Federation — the largest retail trade group — expects holiday sales growth in stores and online to slow to 6% to 8% from 13.5% growth a year ago. However, these figures are not adjusted for inflation. Actual spending may even be lower than it was a year ago.
According to a survey by consulting firm Accenture, 54% of Twin Cities consumers plan to shop in-store this holiday in any metro area it surveyed.
“Maybe it’s not a blockbuster like Black Friday or Cyber Monday,” said Kelsey Robinson, a senior partner in the San Francisco office of McKinsey & Co. “There will be two more big, big shopping days.”
The largest mall in the Twin Cities was at the beginning of Black Friday: More than 10,000 people entered the Mall of America in Bloomington in the first hour after it opened at 7 a.m.
Hailey Rost, 14, of Lakeville, said she enjoys running to the mall first thing in the morning with her mother and aunt. “They’re working on it [for awhile] We finally got to go this year,” he said.
Rost said he likes to stay in the crowd and explore the evening while looking for deals there.
“Experience is key,” said Jill Renslow, executive vice president of business development and marketing at the mall.
“We are more than just a shopping mall, the key to our success is diversifying all our uses from retail, dining, entertainment and hospitality,” he said.
In downtown Minneapolis, a long-standing tradition has been revived at the site of Dayton’s Department Store, which anchored the Twin Cities’ retail scene for much of the 20th century. Santa Bears, first sold by Dayton in 1984 for $10, are now back on sale in The Dayton’s program.
The Dayton store produced new versions of the Santa bear annually until 2007. Shoppers built up collections of stuffed bears. Dayton produced TV specials about them, and even worked with General Mills Cinnamon Toast Crunch Cereal in the Santa Bear commercial.
A collection of Santa bears is part of a holiday window display at The Daytons Project, located in Nicollet Mall between 7th and 8th Streets.
In Loring Park on the edge of downtown, Dec. Craft vendors, food trucks and performers set up for the event at the annual Holitas, which runs weekends until the 18th.
By midnight, the parking lot at the Target store in Edina was full. Rebecca Peterson of Edina had a list of possible gifts as she shopped the toy aisle for Pokemon figurines. In addition to her three children, she gives gifts to three different families during the holidays.
“Now I try to figure out what works best, and if I’m in the store, I can find the best options for them and ask other kids for advice,” she said.
On a Friday afternoon, with sunshine and temperatures in the mid-40s, finding a parking spot at the Twin Cities’ premium outlets in Eagan was nearly impossible.
“We’re seeing some great crowds,” said Sarah Dorian, the center’s marketing director.
Although Black Friday is no longer a frenzy, the holiday season is expected to be a comeback of sorts for the brick-and-mortar retail store, said Jill Standish, Accenture’s global leader in retail.
“I think it’s going to be a body shop holiday and it’s going to be really fun to watch,” he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.