“We had to wake up early to get here,” said Koreatown resident Linda Chavez, 16, who arrived at the Galleria with her sister, Josselyn Chavez, 17, at 5 a.m.
They came for one reason only.
“Cheap clothes,” Linda said, who gushed in appreciation for the four sweaters she picked up at Macy’s for $40.
The teenage sisters were among the hundreds of thousands of consumers expected to turn out at the Galleria on Friday, mall spokeswoman Janet LaFevre said.
“We’re expecting close to 1 million shoppers,” said LaFevre, who noted that early-morning crowds appeared to be larger than last year.
The bustling pedestrian traffic in the mall was a welcome sign for retailers who are facing a consumer base that market experts expect to be tighter in the pockets this year.
“This season is looking pretty challenging,” said Brent Schoenbaum, an analyst with market research firm Deloitte & Touche.
The increasingly high cost of fuel, coupled with a downward housing market, has hurt consumer confidence in Southern California, Schoenbaum said.
The same well-publicized and highly discounted sales specials that lured Black Friday shoppers were also signs that competition for available consumer dollars is tight, Schoenbaum said.
“With a limited amount of dollars out there, retailers are expanding their deals and doorbusters to make sure that retail dollars get into their store,” he said.
At 7 a.m. a line still snaked around the inside perimeter and outside of the Disney Store, which opened at midnight, suggesting plenty of dollars were flowing in.
The Disney Store was one of many Galleria pit-stops made by Santa Clarita sisters-in-law Alice Renolds and Chris Smith, who have shopped together on Black Friday for 30 years, they said.
Over three decades, the pair has developed an efficient system for beating lines.
“As soon as we get into the store, one of us gets in line and the other shops, then we switch,” Smith said.
In the meantime, the pair’s daughters run bags to the parking lot.
“We expect to make four trips to the car today,” Renolds said.
But Renolds said there is one aspect of their time-hardened approach that trumps all the others.
“We don’t care about the crowds,” Renolds said. “You can’t go around being cranky. You have to be in a good mood . . . and we just enjoy the heck out of it.”
RYAN VAILLANCOURT covers business, politics and the foothills. He may be reached at (818) 637-3215 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.