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Black Friday descends on the Philly region with earlier and deeper discounts

Black Friday promises to be the most positive since the Great Recession and a watershed year for online purchases.

Shoppers pass some of the new holiday displays at the King of Prussia Mall on Tuesday. Merchants and shoppers are preparing for a huge Black Friday.
Shoppers pass some of the new holiday displays at the King of Prussia Mall on Tuesday. Merchants and shoppers are preparing for a huge Black Friday.Read moreDAVID MAIALETTI

On your mark … get set … shop! That time of year is upon us again, as the region braces for the shopping extravaganza known as Black Friday.

For many, it even starts before the Thanksgiving meal is served. For others, it begins with lines, and sometimes campsites, after midnight leading up to the big day outside major stores.

This year, U.S. shopping malls will be abuzz despite closures, consolidations, and bankruptcies throughout 2017, though Black Friday promises to be more digital than ever, with more discounts starting earlier. People are feeling good, and retailers want to capture as much of that estimated $680 billion holiday sales pie as they can.

"We are expecting an average spend of $1,226 per person — $1,293 in the Greater Philadelphia marketplace," said Bill Park, partner at Deloitte & Touche LLP and head of its retail division for Philadelphia. "While internet sales will capture about 51 percent of shoppers' budgets, stores will still be an important channel, especially on Black Friday."

About 70 percent of respondents to the Deloitte Holiday survey released last Friday said that they plan to shop in stores on Black Friday.

"So expect the malls to be crowded and the lines to be long," Park said. "Early-morning shopping will be especially robust. Good news for department stores, an otherwise difficult retail sector. According to our survey, traditional department stores are the number-one destination for the weekend with 51 percent of shoppers planning on shopping there."

Malls owned by Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust (Cherry Hill, Willow Grove) and Simon Property malls (King of Prussia and the Gloucester and Philadelphia Premium Outlets) will have extended hours throughout the Black Friday weekend, including on Thanksgiving.

However, three PREIT properties — Plymouth Meeting, Exton Square, and Moorestown  — will join more than 65 major retailers that decided to close on Thanksgiving this year and give their employees the holiday off.

Several retailers began sales early, including the fast-fashion juggernaut H&M, which started pre-Black Friday sales Nov. 14 at all of its stores. Others, such as Kohl's, began massive Black Friday online and in-store discounts Monday.

Online purchases promise to grow three times that of brick-and-mortar sales in November and December.

Charles O'Shea, senior retail analyst at Moody's, said Thanksgiving weekend promotions were off to a fast start, led by Amazon's 50 days of Black Friday, and many other retailers have chosen, or thought that they have been forced, to follow suit.

"Transparency with regard to pricing is high this season, with retailers disclosing doorbusters earlier than ever with the hope that shoppers will be patient and wait for their deal," he said. "Thanksgiving Day store openings have taken some of the 'bloom' off of Black Friday, though it still remains a popular and important day. However, when evaluating performance, we believe the entire weekend through Cyber Monday is really the true barometer, especially with the velocity of online sales growth."

Retailers will have an additional shopping weekend before Christmas this year as Christmas Eve falls on a Sunday for the first time in a decade.

Of all retailers, department stores might be relying the most on having a great Black Friday to match and or exceed their quarterly estimates, according to Thomson Reuters.

WalletHub's holiday study released Tuesday found that Kohl's and J.C. Penney were first on the list of 2017's Best Stores for Black Friday, offering an average discount of 66.3 percent.

PREIT is touting its entertainment-packed options at Plymouth Meeting, including Legoland Discovery Center and 5 Wits' action-adventure rooms, "which we think will give families a much-needed break during their shopping trips — getting your shopping done and keeping your kids entertained," PREIT chief executive officer Joseph Coradino said.

Shoppers at the Cherry Hill, Willow Grove, and Plymouth Meeting Malls will see new multimillion-dollar LED digital screens displaying advertising, news, weather, and shopping updates. The screens will be operating year-round after this weekend as new revenue generators for PREIT.

At King of Prussia Mall, greeters will again be in full force on Black Friday to assist guests, and the popular Concierge lounge will offer complimentary water, coffee, and cookies, according to Kathy Smith, the mall's  director of marketing and business development.

Philadelphia Premium Outlets will be offering holiday shuttles for Black Friday shoppers to help customers park quickly and easily. In addition, the shopping center will be taking its popular Savings Passport, which features 100 retailer offers, digital so customers can access savings on their smartphones.

The National Retail Federation predicted that 59 percent of consumers plan to shop online during the holidays — up from 57 percent last year — cutting into traffic at brick-and-mortar retailers.

Some, like James Traber, 42, of Northeast Philly, are doing about half of their holiday shopping online.

"Ultimately, time is money," said the engineer and avid shopper. "A lot of things just aren't worth waiting in long lines and fighting the crowds."

FTI Consulting believes that the 2017 holiday season is the most favorable since the Great Recession of 2008-09.

"However, this year, sales growth will disproportionately benefit online sellers," said the FTI report. "Two-thirds of the projected overall sales gain this season will go to the online channel, including omnichannel, while in-store sales will capture approximately one-third of this growth."

According to a new survey from Ebates, 22 percent of Americans plan to begin their Black Friday shopping online after Thanksgiving dinner, while 11 percent of Americans admit to shopping on their mobile phones during Thanksgiving dinner.

Shoppers are more likely to compare prices and do extensive online research before jumping into a purchase, said Ross Steinman, a psychology professor at Widener University in Chester.

"The best sales are no longer limited to brick-and-mortar stores or reserved for the people who wake up before sunrise to wait in line," Steinman said. "Shoppers can find many of these deals online — signaling the end of Black Friday as we know it."

Holiday shopping hours

PREIT malls: Cherry Hill and Willow Grove Park malls will open Thanksgiving from 6 p.m. to midnight, and reopen again on Black Friday, from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Plymouth Meeting, Exton Square, and Moorestown malls will all be closed on Thanksgiving and reopen on Black Friday at 6 a.m. and close at 10 p.m.

Simon malls: Properties including King of Prussia, Montgomery, Oxford Valley, and Philadelphia Mills, will open at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving and close at 1 a.m. except for Gloucester Premium Outlets which will remain open until 2 a.m., and Philadelphia Premium Outlets which will remain open through 10 p.m. on Black Friday. They will reopen on Black Friday at 6 a.m. and close at 10 p.m., with the exception of Philadelphia Mills which closes at 9:30 p.m. On Saturday, Gloucester and Philadelphia Premium Outlets open at 8 a.m., with King of Prussia, Montgomery, and Oxford Valley at 9 a.m., and will all close at 10 p.m. Philadelphia Mills opens at 10 a.m. and shuts down at 9 p.m.

Sears: Stores will open at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving and close at midnight. While some stores will close on Thanksgiving, all will open at 5 a.m. on Black Friday. Shoppers can check for hours at their nearest Sears location.

J.C. Penney: Will open at 2 p.m. on Thanksgiving and close 10 p.m. Friday.

Walmart: Black Friday deals kick off on at 12:01 a.m. Eastern time on Thanksgiving, while the in-store event begins at 6 p.m. local time on Thanksgiving.

Kohl's: Stores will open at 5 p.m. on Thanksgiving, while deals on started on Monday.

Target: Doors open at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving and close at midnight. They will reopen at 6 a.m. the next day.

Best Buy: Will open its doors at 5 p.m. on Thanksgiving and close at 1 a.m. on Black Friday and will then reopen from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.