For many Minnesota residents, Black Friday felt just like it did before the pandemic.
There were hardly any face masks, no capacity rules, no distance signs and no glass between children and Sinterklaas.
But in many ways, Black Friday was also no longer the frenzied marathon of the pre-pandemic decade. With so many sales starting weeks ago, the early morning doorbusters and long queues of shoppers had largely disappeared. Inflation was top of mind and many buyers talked about sticking to budgets.
“I definitely want a good deal,” Chanhassen’s Julie Nessly said as she entered the Scheels store at the Eden Prairie Center shortly before 7 a.m. “If it’s not a good deal, I won’t buy it.”
Nessly and her daughter-in-law arrived at the opening of the Scheels store to get ideas for their extramarital husbands and get the good deals before they were gone.
But at Southdale Center in Edina, the state’s oldest mall, only 20 cars were in the Macy’s parking lot when the mall’s general manager, Judy Tullius, arrived shortly before the 6 a.m. opening.
“The way people shop has definitely changed,” she said. “Macy’s has Black Friday deals all week so there was no reason to show up at 6am”
The holiday shopping season lasted longer in the pandemic years, with people shopping online more in 2020 due to health concerns and earlier in 2021 due to supply chain issues.
This year, retailers began promotions last month to help alleviate excess inventory. Still, most of the revenue gains they experienced were due to prices shaped by the highest inflation in 40 years.
US retail sales rose 7.9% in October, but volume sales actually fell 0.4% when adjusted for inflation, according to analyst firm GlobalData.
The National Retail Federation – the largest retail group – expects holiday sales growth in stores and online to slow to a range of 6% to 8%, from 13.5% growth a year ago. However, these figures are not adjusted for inflation. Actual expenses may even be lower than a year ago.
According to a study conducted by consulting firm Accenture, 54% of Twin Cities consumers, the most of any metro area surveyed, plan to shop in-store this holiday.
“Maybe it’s not as much of a blockbuster of a Black Friday or Cyber Monday as it could have been,” said Kelsey Robinson, a senior partner in McKinsey & Co’s San Francisco office. “It’s still going to be two big, huge shopping days.”
The largest crowd in the Twin Cities at the start of Black Friday was at the largest mall: More than 10,000 people entered the Mall of America in Bloomington during the first hour after it opened at 7 a.m.
Hailey Rost, a 14-year-old from Lakeville, said she was happy to run to the mall with her mother and aunt. “They did it [for awhile] and we can finally go this year,” she said.
While there to look for deals, Rost said she really craved the chance to be in the crowd and explore the mall.
“Experience is key,” said Jill Renslow, executive vice president of business development and marketing at the mall.
“We are so much more than a shopping center and the key to our success is diversifying all of our retail, dining, entertainment and hospitality uses,” she said.
In downtown Minneapolis, an old tradition was revived on the site of the Dayton’s department store, which anchored the Twin Cities shopping scene for much of the 20th century. Santa Bears, which Dayton’s first sold for $10 in 1984, were back on sale at what is now called The Dayton’s Project.
Dayton’s store created new versions of Santa annually through 2007. Shoppers built up collections of the stuffed bears. Dayton’s produced TV specials about them and even partnered with General Mills on a Santa Bear promotion featuring Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal.
A collection of Christmas bears is also part of the holiday window display at the Dayton’s Project, along Nicollet Mall between 7th and 8th Streets.
In Loring Park, on the edge of downtown, craft vendors, food trucks, and performers prepare for the annual Holidazzle event, which will run on weekends through December 18.
By mid-morning, the parking lot at the Target store in Edina was full. Edina’s Rebecca Peterson had a list of potential gifts when she shopped the toy aisle for Pokemon figures. In addition to her three children, she gives gifts to three different families during the holiday season.
“Now I’m trying to figure out what would work best, and it feels like I can find the best options for them in the store and ask other kids for advice,” she said.
On Friday afternoon, with the sun shining and temperatures hovering around 40 degrees, it was nearly impossible to find a parking spot at the Twin Cities Premium Outlets in Eagan.
“We’re seeing a big crowd,” said Sarah Dorrian, the center’s director of marketing.
Even though Black Friday is no longer a crazy dash, the holiday season is expected to be something of a comeback for the physical store, says Jill Standish, Accenture’s global lead for retail.
“I really think this is going to be a physical shopping holiday, which will be a lot of fun to watch,” she said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.