On the Friday after Thanksgiving, a.k.a. Black Friday, customer traffic appeared robust at retail malls around the San Fernando, Conejo and Santa Clarita valleys, as holiday shopping kicked into high gear.
The Business Journal circled the block repeatedly at the Westfield Topanga mall in Woodland Hills, in an attempt to find parking on a day when stores inside the Topanga Canyon Boulevard-located mall were offering discounts between 30 and 70 percent, and the Cheesecake Factory saw out-the-door patronage.
A fight reportedly broke out Thursday evening at a Palmdale Walmart between two groups of customers, each with more than a dozen people. The scuffle continued outside. No injuries were reported and no arrests were made.
At Westfield Valencia Town Center in Santa Clarita, long lines were reported at such stores as Macy’s, The Gap, Banana Republic and Bath & Body Works; and in Simi Valley, at least one shopping center general manager saw an uptick in customer fervor over last year.
“Victoria’s Secret and Tilly’s opened at midnight,” said Simi Valley Town Center General Manager Jeffrey DiJulius,” with huge lines forming and maintaining a steady pace until about 4 a.m. Friday. Then (it) picked up at 8 a.m. when Van’s and everyone else opened. The center got busy about 9:30 a.m. and there has been steady traffic since,” he said Friday afternoon.
The Town Center’s Macy’s, Bath & Body Works, Fashion Q, Five Below and Ulta opened at 6 a.m. and “all reported brisk business,” DiJulius said.
“Lunch at all restaurants has been above what they expected,” DiJulius continued. “Larsen’s opened at 3 p.m. (Thursday) and sold out of reservations. Starbucks opened at 5:30 a.m. yesterday and reported better-than-average sales for the day.”
In addition, DiJulius noted, Studio Movie Grill was open from 10 a.m. through midnight as moviegoers flocked to see such hits as “Ralph Breaks the Internet,” “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “The Grinch” and the “Fantastic Beasts” sequel, with the multiplex seeing “higher-than-anticipated numbers.”
Added DiJulius, he has never seen so many males at his center post-Thanksgiving.
GlobalData Retail estimated the Black Friday haul could reach $59.6 billion this year; an increase of 5.7 percent over 2017 sales and the best growth rate since 2011. The positive outlook arrives in a year with the lowest unemployment in decades and in which retailers fostered an increase of synergies between storefronts and e-commerce while also trying to bridge substantial gaps in the market left behind by such shuttered stores as the bankrupt Toys R Us and embattled chains such as Sears and the reconfiguring Gap, which announced Wednesday that it intends to shutter 200 Gap and Banana Republic branches and open nearly 300 Old Navy and Athleta stores through 2021.
Despite bullish Black Friday national forecasts from various studies, including brokerages CBRE, Colliers International Group Inc. and Jones Lang LaSalle, locally it was unclear if this Black Friday would thrive in the aftermath of the Woolsey Fire, Hill Fire and Borderline shooting.