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Santa Monica Holiday Shopping Season Off to Busy Start

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By Niki Cervantes
Staff Writer

December 3, 2014 -- Lines of shoppers didn’t wrap around the block on Black Friday in Santa Monica, but merchants and their representatives say the holiday season got off to a busy start.

Shoppers who filled up on Thanksgiving Day discounts continued crowding the aisles through the weekend, according to merchants and business district officials.

“From where I stood, it was busy but not overwhelming , not stressful…no elbowing,” said Kevin Herrera, senior communications manager for Downtown Santa Monica, Inc.  “It pretty much mirrored other weekends.”

Sales figures from local merchants are not yet available. 

Despite all the big discounts, sales dropped nationally during the Black Friday weekend by an estimated 11 percent from the previous year, according to the National Retail Federation.

ShopperTrak, a Chicago-based consumer analytics firm, found businesses that stayed open Thanksgiving with promises of deep discounts brought in plenty of shoppers.  Herrera said about half of the downtown retailers stayed open on Thanksgiving.

But, national experts said, by Sunday, shoppers appeared just worn out.

The season’s sales figures probably indicate a change in shopper behavior during the holidays, according to local merchants. They are hitting the stores over a longer stretch of time, instead of focusing on one or two key days.

That, along with the growing popularity of online shopping, probably caused the overall drop in brick-and-mortar retail sales, they said.

William Burbar, of Burbar’s Jewelers, said business had been on the quiet side so far, but that he has reason to believe it will be a good season for his Downtown store.

He hears “a little better of an attitude” toward the economy, Burbar said. “We’re hopeful. It’s been rather difficult the last few years.”

Forecasts had been more optimistic, with major representatives of retailers expecting a jump of 4 to 4.5 percent nationally over last year.

And the numbers have been healthier in the past.

Following a national trend, several of the bigger brand stores on the Third Street Promenade opened their doors at midnight Thanksgiving just two years ago, steeling themselves against a crush of determined early shoppers.

“Bright Friday” discounts of up to 60 percent at The Gap brought in a horde of midnight shoppers. And Victoria’s Secret also opened at midnight that Thursday, with the staff kept busy until the wee hours by crowds of young women and men.

At Urban Outfitters, though, all the midnight craziness turned serious when shoppers impatient to get inside the store shattered one of its front doors. The incident injured some people and required a visit from the Santa Monica Police and emergency responders.

No such incidents were reported this year.

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