Are you ready to shop? Deals are coming your way. And change is, too

A lighthearted look at Black Friday madness

More than 90 million people take advantage of Black Friday deals, undeterred by the fact that more people are injured or killed in shopping-related accidents than by sharks each year. Here’s a lighthearted look at the madness of Black Friday shopp
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More than 90 million people take advantage of Black Friday deals, undeterred by the fact that more people are injured or killed in shopping-related accidents than by sharks each year. Here’s a lighthearted look at the madness of Black Friday shopp

Retailers and malls around the country have been backing off from the Black Friday insanity of years’ past that even has carved into Thanksgiving.

But don’t worry, South Florida – you’re good. Shopping doesn’t take a holiday here.

Beginning on Thanksgiving in many stores, bargains on big TVs, Xbox consoles and tablets are likely to still draw people inside, while sale prices on everything from Fitbits to jewelry and stocking stuffers will ensure that carts look like Santa’s sleigh.

In a big change from years past, Sawgrass Mills Mall and Dolphin Mall will be open all day on Thanksgiving, from 10 a.m. to midnight. Other malls including Dadeland, Pembroke Lakes, The Falls and Miami International Mall will open at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving, giving you just enough time to digest the turkey.

Regionwide, Brandsmart will open at 4 p.m., with Best Buy and Macy’s unlocking the doors at 5 p.m.; Walmart and Target will open at 6 p.m. (Walmart 24-hour stores will be open all day, but the Black Friday deals start at 6 p.m.).

In a switch from the past three years, when it opened at 6 p.m., Aventura Mall will close on Thanksgiving, and open at 7 a.m. on Black Friday.

“Thanksgiving is a family holiday, and we’re pleased to provide our retailers with the opportunity to give their employees this special day off,” said Jackie Soffer, co-chairman and CEO of Turnberry Associates, owner and manager of Aventura Mall, in an e-mail. Some of the mall’s department stores will be open Thanksgiving evening, but through outside entrances only.

Aventura won’t be the only early starter on Black Friday. Most malls and stores will open between 6 a.m. and 8 a.m. — if they have closed at all. Target will be open straight through. At Dadeland, Macy’s and a handful of local retailers will be open throughout the night between Thanksgiving and Black Friday, said Dailen Rodriguez, director of marketing and business development at Dadeland Mall.

“It’s a tradition for many people in South Florida to kick off their holiday season at the mall,” she said, noting that people are still arriving late in the day on Black Friday to enjoy the shopping, a meal and festive decorations with their families.

The shop-the-holiday trend kicked into high gear in 2011, when many stores began opening Thanksgiving evening for Black Friday, the traditional start of the holiday shopping season. Retailers including Macy’s, Target and J.C. Penney moved opening hours earlier and earlier to get first dibs on customers. But the move has been controversial, as many workers voiced complaints that stores are putting profits over workers’ family time. Many, including Nordstrom and T.J. Maxx, never opened on Thanksgiving — a move that garnered good will for their brands.

As a result, many stores and malls nationwide — including North America’s largest, the Mall of America — have rolled back opening hours until Friday. “More retailers are coming to their senses and realizing it is a family holiday and from a business point of view, it’s not making much business sense,” said Stephen D. Lebovitz, president and CEO of CBL & Associates Properties, a mall operator that is closing 72 of its malls on Thanksgiving day.

But in South Florida, international tourists and retail-happy locals who have made shopping part of their annual holiday tradition want the Thanksgiving hours, mall executives said.

“Our customers and our retailers were asking to be open on Thanksgiving,” said Madelyn Bello Calvar, director of marketing and sponsorships for Dolphin Mall, which opens at 10 a.m. Thursday. She added that the entertainment at the Dolphin Mall has always been open. The fun will continue on Black Friday, when the mall will unveil its Santa’s Flight Academy, an interactive experience for kids, and its annual evening “snowfalls” will begin. For parents, there will be drawings for $250 gift cards and free valet parking through the shopping season, she said.

In Sunrise, Sawgrass Mills also opens at 10 a.m. Thursday to give shoppers more flexibility, said David Gott, general manager. Like Dolphin, Sawgrass opened at 6 p.m. last Thanksgiving but stayed open through the night. This year, Sawgrass will close at midnight, though a few stores, such as Target, will be open through the night. New this year: a 1,700-car parking garage near Colonnade Outlet.

“There’s a fairly significant group of shoppers who come from outside the United States and this is Thursday for them,” said Gott. “We have folks who travel to shop with us for the weekend.”

Gott is bullish about the holiday season ahead. “Our sales trends have been robust. We have seen a resurgence of some of the tourist markets that have lagged a little, like Brazil. We are very excited going into this weekend and the tenants are optimistic.”

Andy Mantis, executive vice president of NPD Group Checkout Tracking, says stores should open on both Thanksgiving and Black Friday to maximize their sales. The company, which studies consumer behavior, last year found that the share of buyers who shopped on both days declined, while the number who shopped only on Thanksgiving Day or on Black Friday increased.

For those who think battling mall traffic either day is worse than a dentist’s drill, online deals abound. In some cases, Cyber Monday, the traditional online shopping day for the best deals, starts before Black Friday.

Follow these tips to avoid falling victim to a crime.

Confused? Here’s the deal:

Walmart, which has nearly tripled the number of items it offers online, is kicking off its Black Friday deals on beginning at 12:01 a.m. on Thanksgiving, hours before the 6 p.m. sale starts in stores. Deals will continue through the weekend and Cyber Monday.

The move comes as Walmart aims to compete more aggressively with online leader And Amazon has deals of its own: The online giant began 35 straight days of “Black Friday” bargains last weekend, meaning that shoppers can get some rock-bottom prices before and well after Thanksgiving. Amazon said it will offer a new deal up to every five minutes until Dec. 22, with some of the best opportunities delivered during the “Turkey Five,” the five days between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday.

Retailers have good reason to extend their sales. The National Retail Federation survey shows that 41.5 percent of consumers had already started their holiday buying by early November. The federation predicts the holidays will yield 3.6 percent more sales than last year, to top $655 billion. Nearly 6 in 10 Americans, or 137.4 million, plan to shop online or in stores during the long Thanksgiving weekend, according to the survey. In a recent AAA Consumer Pulse Survey of Floridians, slightly more people said they would shop online on Cyber Monday rather than on Black Friday (49 percent vs. 48 percent).

Willy Santizo, manager of Walmart in Doral, said he has seen a slight decrease in Black Friday foot traffic as online shopping takes a bigger bite of the market, but many people like to touch and feel the items. “You still get the excitement — people are shopping,” he said. “We’re going to make it very simple, we will have great deals for great prices. We will actually have more inventory in the store this year.”

For consumers, whether they want to score a LG 65-inch 4KUHD TV for $798.88 (at Brandsmart), an Apple MacBook Air for $799.99 (Best Buy), 70 percent off clearance jewelry (Macy’s), Hatchimals toys for $48.88 (Walmart) or DVDs for a dollar at Kmart, scoring means mastering the days on all fronts.

Prepare ahead of time and then plan your trek, said Rodriguez of Dadeland. Customers can often see Black Friday sale ads online well ahead of time. At Dadeland, the guest services desk offers coffee and treats.

Above all, pack your patience, Rodriguez added. “We want people to have fun — that is what the season is all about.”

This report was supplemented with material from The Associated Press.

Holiday shopping guide

Here are hours of malls and retailers on Thanksgiving and Black Friday. Nearly all have extended hours throughout the weekend.

▪ Sawgrass Mills: Open Thursday 10 a.m. to midnight; Friday 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.

▪ Dolphin Mall: Open Thursday 10 a.m. to midnight; Friday 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.

▪ Dadeland, Miami International Mall and The Falls: Open Thursday 6 p.m. to 1 a.m.; Friday 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.

▪ Aventura Mall: Closed Thursday (although department stores and AMC movie theater hours vary on Thanksgiving Day); Friday 7 a.m. to10 p.m.

▪ Pembroke Lakes: Open Thursday 6 p.m. to midnight; Friday 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.

▪ Mall of the Americas: Closed Thursday; Friday 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.

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