Black Friday sprawl means fewer pre-dawn shoppers in South Florida

Jamarion Reid 12, and his brother Jhamauri 13, with their step-father Reggie Hawkins (hat), carry 16 shopping bags through the mall after a morning of shopping on Black Friday at Aventura Mall, November 27, 2015.
Jamarion Reid 12, and his brother Jhamauri 13, with their step-father Reggie Hawkins (hat), carry 16 shopping bags through the mall after a morning of shopping on Black Friday at Aventura Mall, November 27, 2015.

The thrill of scoring a pre-dawn Black Friday deal has mostly disappeared as many stores open Thanksgiving night and offer bargains online throughout the week.

At Aventura Mall on Black Friday, a handful of stores stayed open all night, including Macy's, PINK, Abercrombie and Bath & Body Works. But at 3 a.m., the corridors were mostly empty except for clusters of young customers and couples sprawled out on sofas and chairs in the middle of the mall. Many of the stores had more employees than customers; workers kept busy sweeping and straightening stock.

At Saks Fifth Avenue in Dadeland, customers accustomed to finding a line at the 8 a.m. opening strolled right in. And at Merrick Park in Coral Gables, parking spots were readily available at 9 a.m., while some stores had seen only a handful of customers.

But some shoppers remained committed to the traditions of Black Friday, when retailers nationwide advertise low prices as people gear up for the holiday season.

Junelle Cox showed up to Aventura at 4 a.m. after driving from her home in Coconut Creek with her cousin and mother. The trio had already made two trips lugging bags back to their car when a reporter stopped to chat mid-Friday morning. They weren’t very interested in online shopping.

“I like to see what I’m buying in person,” Cox said.

As Black Friday creeps into the entire Thanksgiving week, drawing more shoppers in with its discounts, retailers expect a strong holiday season. Average consumer spending could reach a 14-year high, according to the National Retail Federation. Cheap gas, more jobs and rising wages all help.

“Work has been good,” said Reggie Hawkins, a furniture mover, over a plate of eggs and potatoes at the Aventura Mall food court. “There are more people moving around.”

Surrounding Hawkins and his wife and two stepsons were 16 bags brimming with pots, pans, perfumes, wineglasses, clothes, a cappuccino maker, video games and a pair of remote control cars for the two boys.

“We bought a lot more this year,” said Jhamauri, 13.

Hawkins said the family spent about $400 on items with a retail value he pegged closer to $1,000.

Sales across Florida are expected to rise 4.5 percent compared to last year, according to the Florida Retail Federation, outpacing predicted national growth of 3.5 percent.

More than 90 million people are taking 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

Despite the lighter-than-normal early morning rush, Black Friday favorites did fill up as the day went on.

At the Dolphin Mall in Sweetwater, many shoppers brought suitcases to load up with discounted items. Young parents pushed baby strollers with shopping bags dangling off the sides. Exhausted customers napped in coin-operated massage chairs.

Even so, “it’s definitely less crowded than I expected,” said Eddie Alicea, a shopper at the Dolphin Mall who was patiently holding a Banana Republic bag as his wife, mother and teenage daughter browsed a jewelry store nearby. “I think the people who really wanted the best deals were here last night.”

Sawgrass Mills, the massive outlet mall in Sunrise, was jammed by noon. Parking spaces were a rare commodity, and drivers tailed shoppers walking out with full bags to snag their spots.

Still, the center didn’t seem as busy as last year, said Erika Lambrano, a saleswoman at a jewelry kiosk in Sawgrass.

“Most of our shoppers are South American and the economy in many of our countries is bad,” Lambrano said, “The dollar is very expensive.”

Those who could afford to make the trip from Latin America said the Black Friday prices were worth it.

Gustavo Bosio traveled from Argentina with a spare suitcase to visit the Adidas store in Sawgrass. Even though the dollar is up nearly 13 percent against the Argentine peso since last year, Bosio said prices in America are still much better than back home.

Maria Matamoros, a dietician from Costa Rica, agreed.

She planned a special four-day shopping trip to Miami for the occasion, paying visits to the Dadeland and Aventura malls.

“The prices are so much better here,” said Matamoros, as she zipped up a suitcase full of clothes and makeup. “It’s half the cost because our taxes are so high.”

Miami Herald staffers Jeff Kleinman and Jane Wooldridge contributed to this report.

Nicholas Nehamas: 305-376-3745, @NickNehamas

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