FAIRFIELD — Being an early bird shopper for Black Friday these days just about means becoming a Thanksgiving Day night owl.
“We’ve already had two rushes this morning,” Westfield Solano mall manager Geoff Mason said at 7 a.m. Friday.
The first came at midnight, when a dozen or so stores opened. The second came at 4 a.m., when most of the remaining stores opened. By 7 a.m., the mall still bustled with shoppers and the parking lots were packed, but the long lines had dissipated.
And Westfield Solano mall is far from the earliest place to kick off the Christmas shopping season. Some stores, such as certain ones at the Vacaville Premium Outlets, opened as early at 9 p.m. on Thanksgiving.
Accounts from Mason, shoppers and merchants indicate that shoppers turned out in force for Black Friday at the mall and that many embraced the trend toward earlier and earlier store openings. The question that remains is how much shoppers will spend amid an economic recovery that seems anemic at best.
Becky Johnston of Vacaville and her two friends shopped at the mall at 7 a.m. on Friday morning as kind of a part two to the Christmas season sales kickoff. The previous night, Johnson went to Walmart at 10 p.m.
“It’s fun for us,” Johnston said, but she added she feels bad for the employees who have to work that nighttime shift.
But while she might be ready to visit shops until she drops, she’s not necessarily ready to spend until she drops. She foresees spending less than last year. People are forced to go to the door-buster sales to make their budgets stretch, she said.
Latasha Richardson of Fairfield came to the mall at 6:30 a.m. with her brother Moses. The trend of opening stores earlier and earlier — especially the ones opening Thanksgiving night — isn’t for her.
“I’d still be recovering from the food,” she said.
Cassandra Kobbe of Vallejo came to the mall at 3:30 a.m. with her daughter Kianna Baldwin to be ready for the 4 a.m. wave of store openings. The parking lot was full, she said.
She wouldn’t have minded coming earlier, but she specifically wanted to go to a mobile phone store that opened at 4 a.m., Kobbe said.
By 7 a.m., she still had a full day of activity ahead of her, but it didn’t involve shopping.
“I’ve got to go get ready for work,” she said with a weary smile.
Marjorie Huffenberger is store manager for Old Navy at the mall. Old Navy opened at midnight and Huffenberger said about 450 people were in line, compared to about 300 last year.
“There were more stores that were open at midnight this year,” she said “That made a difference. We had a giveaway. That brought a lot of people in.”
At one point, lines at the cash registers stretched to the back of the store, she said.
“Right now, I’m doing better than last year for the month of November,” Huffenberger said. “People are still coming in for really good values. That’s what they’re looking for.”
Shoppers lined up for the J.C. Penney opening at 4 a.m. Friday, too.
“All four doors,” store manager Rosie Edwards said.
The toys, electronics, houseware and shoe departments all saw a lot of traffic, Edwards said. The shoppers are definitely turning out, she said.
Now merchants will wait to see how much money the shoppers are leaving behind.
More people than local merchants have a stake in the Christmas shopping season. Consumer spending accounts for about 70 percent of the United States economy. On the local level, Fairfield gets almost 30 percent of its general fund revenues from sales taxes and a state reimbursement for borrowed sales taxes. It gets 28 percent of its sales tax revenues from the mall and adjacent Gateway area.
Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929, or [email protected]