Friday, November 29, 2013

Everything you need to know about Black Friday Eve last night

Black Friday Eve came and went.

After a traditional Thanksgiving dinner with family this correspondent headed to Twelve Oaks Mall in suburban Detroit approximately 45 minutes before 8 o’clock, when most of the stores — J. Crew being a notable exception — opened.

To avoid making people queue up in the cold, as in past years, the mall’s doors were wide open and many were seen mingling about or getting a coffee from Starbucks to pass the time. Noticeable lines didn’t form until about 15 minutes before opening.

As one might expect, ladies were a majority of the shoppers though there were more gentlemen — probably 40 percent — than one might expect.

Sears, which features a large Lands’ End boutique, was practically empty with most people using it as an entrance and exit over the mall’s more crowded anchor stores. In the Lands’ End boutique, discounts of 30 percent were commonplace with select Canvas clothing at 50 percent off the regular price.

J.C. Penney was much busier than Sears, especially in housewares and womenswear. The menswear department was quiet with the only exception being the cash register that separates the St. John’s Bay, jcp and Stafford Prep boutiques from womenswear.

In menswear, the best deal to be had was the much-hyped Harris Tweed sport jacket from in-house brand Stafford.

PHOTO courtesy of J.C. Penney.

Available in limited sizes, there were seven or eight on the rack for just under $78. The price was supposed to have been higher, the sales clerk said, but the wrong sign was erected thereby forcing the store to sell at the displayed price.

All things considered, the Harris Tweed sport jacket was a great bargain that will only get better with age.

Another worthwhile buy were single pairs of colorful socks designed by Sweden’s Happy Socks for $3.99. A few 100 percent wool Stafford charcoal (or is it dark gray?) plain front, classic-fit pants also remained. Please note the newer model, which was abundant, is a wool blend.

Not much else remained from the former J.C. Penney management and style regimes. On the whole, the newer, post-Johnson merchandise contains a lot of polyester or nylon blended with cheaper wool and cotton.

This was clearly evident with Stafford Prep, which has some nice offerings but was pushed back to the far corner with next to no signage or brand marketing.

Of course, this is lunacy — especially with quality offerings like the Barbour-style jacket — but J.C. Penney’s strategy to stay in business seems to be junk everything and anything — regardless if it worked — from the former regime and re-implement the brand strategy that caused the department store’s woes in the first place.

Macy’s was altogether different than Sears and J.C. Penney.

Every single department in the store was jammed packed. In fact, the lines at cash registers were so ridiculously long that this correspondent decided it wasn’t worth waiting 20 minutes to save a few bucks.

For $29 and cents, the Lauren Ralph Lauren corduroy pants were a great deal. Even with a fair bit of tailoring — say the removal of belt loops and construction of side-tab adjusters in addition to an inseam adjustment — the pants remain a bargain.

This particular Macy’s also had Hugo Boss and Hart Schaffner Marx suits, but these were being sold at full price with no known discounts available.

It may not be popular with some, but Black Friday Eve shopping is here to say. It’s also probably safe to say that mall stores will probably open even earlier next year, as there’s a tremendous competitive advantage to being open before your competitors.

The real unknown is whether J.C. Penney will be in business this time next year notwithstanding some encouraging signs of late.

Nordstrom, Lord & Taylor, Von Maur, J. Crew, Carlson’s, Brooks Brothers and Polo Ralph Lauren are on the list for tomorrow when this correspondent also visits two nearby malls in suburban Detroit: Laurel Park Place and the very upscale Somerset Collection.

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