"It was a wonderful day."
Phil Perlis, with The Big Store in Tifton, said Black Friday was anything but for his store. After closing on Thanksgiving Day to allow employees to spend time with their families, which Perlis said is a priority, he said the biggest shopping day of the year was a "good day to reconnect with people."
"It's the funnest day of the year for us. There are children that have grown up coming here and they came back to see us," he said. "A lot of people traveled a long way to shop with us here in Tifton. And we had a lot of local customers as well. People were in good spirits."
Perlis said the store's customers are loyal to shop there each holiday season, and he's hopeful this will be the case this year. But with six less shopping days this year – since Thanksgiving was a week later than usual – he expects a negative impact.
"I talked with our customers and other merchants throughout the region, and I feel like regionally, there will be less dollars spent. This year it will be about the thought put into the gift. People will think not about the dollars spent but the meaning," he said.
The Tifton Mall was a "madhouse," according to Vicki McKellar, mall manager.
"It was crazy, but it was very successful. We had lots of folks here," she said. "We were busy both days, but our most productive day was Thanksgiving Day."
McKellar said she hopes opening this year on Thanksgiving doesn't set a precedent for Tifton.
"I hope it won't be a regular thing," she said. "We were open 25 or 26 hours. It was very tiring. It took away from family time and it also took away the excitement of (Black) Friday."
All over the country, stores opened on Thanksgiving, which proved to be a controversial move – some were offended that retailers would infringe on a family-oriented day, while others flocked to the stores. Walmart, Target, Macy's and other stores offered holiday discounts earlier in the month, as well as opening on Thanksgiving.
But while people were filling the aisles of retailers nationwide, not as much was spent this past weekend as was hoped.
"The economy spoke loud and clear over the past few days," Brian Sozzi, CEO and chief equities strategist at Belus Capital Advisors told The Associated Press. "We are going to see an increase in markdowns."
There was a record 141 million people expected to shop this past weekend, according to The National Retail Federation. Over the four-day weekend, spending fell an estimated 2.9 percent to $57.4 billion. The individual shopper, the site said, was expected to spend $407.02 over the Black Friday weekend – down 3.9 percent from last year.
Nationwide, retailers reported strong crowds in their stores on Thanksgiving Day, and on Friday as well. But it's been reported that Black Friday sales fell 13.2 percent from the previous year. Combined spending on the two days, however, rose 2.3 percent.
Matthew Shay, president and CEO of The National Retail Federation, told AP that the survey results only represent one weekend in what is typically the biggest shopping period of the year. The combined months of November and December can account for up to 40 percent of retailers' revenue.
Overall, Shay said the trade group still expects sales for the combined two months to increase 3.9 percent to $602.1 billion. That's higher than the 3.5 percent pace in the previous year.
But to achieve that growth, retailers will likely have to offer big sales events. In a stronger economy, people who shopped early would continue to do so throughout the season. But analysts say that's not likely to be the case in this still tough economic climate.
To contact editor Angye Morrison, call 382-4321.