Black Friday Crowds Out, But Will Shoppers Spend?

By Dave Franzman, Reporter

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By Lisa Kunkel

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - Eastern Iowa shoppers apparently hit the stores in the usual Black Friday numbers. But will shoppers keep spending throughout this weekend and the rest of the holiday season?

A walk through the stores on this annual kickoff shopping day brought a variety of responses. But many shoppers seemed to feel they were prepared to do it, but not over do it.

One group wearing matching pink “Black Friday Mafia” t-shirts were certainly some of the more dedicated shoppers out on Friday. But Jan Thole, one member of the group, said even those most dedicated of shoppers knows when to say when.

“Each one of my children are allotted so much—and that’s how I do it,” Thole said.

Nationally, one retail trade group expects an increase of just under three percent in holiday sales. But having the means, and spending the money, aren’t the same thing.

Duane Miller, manger of the Sears store in Cedar Rapids, said all merchants can do is count the crowds, compare with the sales record in prior years and then make an educated guess about what consumers will spend.

“You’re always cautiously optimistic,” Miller said adding “you never know what the situation will be until this day hits. But in our first hour this (Friday) morning, the crowds were back and the weather was nice and people came out shopping.”

Miller said 45 to 55 percent of his sales will come on credit cards. And while layaway is back in some stores, including Sears, it makes up just about three percent of sales at the Cedar Rapids Sears store. For buyers, paying with plastic is both a convenience and a temptation—the temptation to overspend and rack up interest charges that come due in January. But one shopper said what it takes is discipline.

Sue Ellison said “I’ll pay it (charges) off at the end of the month.” When asked how she could be sure, Ellison replied “I’m 100% sure or I wouldn’t have done it.”

Some Cedar Rapids shoppers did mention the economy as a reason to remain cautious with holiday spending. But the real test comes late next month. Despite all you hear about Black Friday, the Saturday before Christmas is historically the single biggest buying day of the whole year.

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