Retailers are gearing up for one of the busiest shopping weekends of the year, with Thanksgiving just days away.
Locally, the bulk of shopping will take place in the days after Thanksgiving. Aside from a few anchor stores, Roanoke’s Valley View and Tanglewood malls will both be closed for the holiday. But they’ll be open bright and early on Black Friday.
Those who are not too drowsy from turkey will have a chance to shop on Thanksgiving day at the New River Valley Mall in Christiansburg, which will open at 6 p.m.
More than 165 million people are expected to do some holiday shopping during the long weekend between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday, according to an annual survey by the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights and Analytics. Of those five days, Black Friday is expected to be the busiest, with an anticipated 114.6 million shoppers.
An estimated 68.7 million people are planning to shop on Cyber Monday and 66.6 million on Small Business Saturday, the survey indicates.
“The tradition of Thanksgiving weekend holiday shopping has become a five-day event with consumers spending money in stores, supporting local small businesses, and online with their mobile devices and computers,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said in a news release.
The percentage of people who plan to start shopping in stores is only slightly greater than those who said they’d shop online, the survey showed — 47% and 41%, respectively.
Aside from the deals and doorbuster sales offered by Valley View’s various retailers, no special events are planned for Black Friday, said Kristina Circelli, marketing director for CBL Properties, the mall’s owner.
But for those ready to immediately shift from Thanksgiving to Christmas, the mall will have visits with Santa and regular performances by the animatronic Bearstein Bears Symphony Orchestra.
Circelli said mall officials have been closely monitoring retail data and trends. She said research indicates that gift cards are at the top of shoppers’ holiday lists, followed by clothing and accessories.
Circelli said it will also be interesting to see whether there’s good turnout from members of Generation Z — roughly, those 22 and younger — as numerous studies have indicated.
A survey by the NPD Group, a marketing research company, found that about a third of Gen Z-ers are expected to start their holiday shopping on Black Friday, the highest of all generational groups. It also indicated they are less likely than their millennial and Gen X counterparts to shop online.
Additionally, the International Council of Shopping Centers found in a study last year that Gen Z shoppers “overwhelmingly prefer” the brick-and-mortar shopping experience to online.
The National Retail Federation study noted that 52% of respondents under age 25 are expected to start their shopping by visiting physical stores.
“That’s what we want, is those people coming back into the stores where you can actually touch and try on before you buy,” Circelli said.
She noted that the younger generation is drawn not just by deals, but also the overall shopping experience. It’s a chance to socialize, Circelli said, and make a whole day of it.
Tina Waugh, with the New River Valley Mall, said shoppers are hyper-focused on taking advantage of deals on Black Friday.
“We will stay out of the way and let them do just that without distraction,” she said.
However, Waugh said musical entertainment and dance performances will be offered at the mall throughout the holiday season.
Thanksgiving holiday shopping sprees are hardly confined to Black Friday. The very next day, shoppers are urged to support local retailers with Small Business Saturday.
Downtown Roanoke Inc. promotes sales and offers by retailers and restaurants on a centralized page on its website and tries to get the word out about shopping locally, spokeswoman Jaime Clark said.
“These are businesses that are locally owned,” she said. “They’re your friends, they’re your neighbors.”
Free coffee and doughnuts will be distributed from 9 to 11 a.m. at Market Square in an effort to rouse shoppers from their beds Saturday morning. Clark said DRI first started doing this last year, but few shoppers probably experienced it because of the bad weather.
Clark encouraged Roanokers to visit downtown’s small businesses, which can offer a more peaceful shopping experience.
“They have stuff down here that you won’t find at a mall and you won’t have to fight the crowds, or get there at 4 a.m. to wait in line,” she said.
Some restaurants are also offering specials and discounts for shoppers, so Clark suggested spending the day downtown: Start with the free coffee and doughnuts, do a little shopping and then grab lunch. Maybe even shop some more.