MICHELE NORRIS, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.
Ready, set, shop. It's that day when bargain-hungry shoppers wake up well before sunrise as if commanded by some alien force field in search of juicy deals on the year's hottest items. And as usual, there are stories aplenty about all-night stakeouts, soaring sales and virtual stampedes as the store doors open. In Orlando, Florida, shoppers wrestled a man to the ground after he tried to cut the line to snap up a discount computer. In Beaumont, Texas, an off-duty police officer sprayed mace into a crowd of overzealous Wal-Mart shoppers. Several people reportedly left the store gasping and choking as they headed for the parking lot. The Black Friday retail rush is now an enshrined American tradition, a huge payday for the nation's top retailers. We asked one of our commentators, Pam Varkony, to go to her local mall near Allentown, Pennsylvania, and visit some of those lesser-known stores to see how they're doing on this day. She joins us now from Lehigh Valley Mall.
NORRIS: What's the story there in Lehigh?
VARKONY: Well, it's absolutely packed, although I will tell you there's been no spraying of mace and no wrestling anyone to the ground. Everyone in the Lehigh Valley is very well-behaved.
NORRIS: Well, I'm glad to hear that they're practicing decorum there in Lehigh Valley. Is everyone benefiting from this retail bonanza? Are all the stores doing it?
VARKONY: Everyone that I've been able to talk to and everyone I've shopped with so far seems to be very, very happy. It was interesting. One retailer told me that they thought the volume itself was down a little bit but the quality was up because everybody who was coming into the store was buying.
NORRIS: So fewer shoppers but they're spending more money.
VARKONY: Now that was from one retailer, and the others that I spoke to all told me that they've just been mobbed all day, and one fellow told me he's up 20 percent over last year.
NORRIS: Well, Pam, I understand that you spent some time at a store called Magic Crystal and John Henry is the proprietor there. Can you pass the phone to Mr. Henry?
VARKONY: I sure can.
Mr. JOHN HENRY (Magic Crystal): Hello, Michele?
NORRIS: Hello. Is that John Henry on the line?
Mr. HENRY: That's--yes, I am.
NORRIS: Now you have to tell us about your store. What is a magic crystal?
Mr. HENRY: Well, a magic crystal is a three-inch by one-and-a-half-inch cube with an image that's been shot inside the crystal by lasers, and then the image reflects out like tiny little mirrors.
NORRIS: Give us an example. What kind of images do you etch on those crystals?
Mr. HENRY: Oh, fairies, lighthouses, some more unusual ones would be the spiders or--I don't know. You can actually put in the cube anything you'd like to. And then if you--any light you apply to it will project the image out and then will kind of shine.
NORRIS: So it's almost like a prism.
Mr. HENRY: Yes, it's kind of like a prism.
NORRIS: Have you actually looked at your receipts yet? Do you know how much money you've brought in today?
Mr. HENRY: Well, I do, but I don't know if I'm going to discuss that.
NORRIS: Oh, well, can you at least give us a percentage perhaps over your sales from a normal Friday?
Mr. HENRY: I'd say I'm easily up maybe twice, three times maybe.
NORRIS: Maybe or...
Mr. HENRY: I would go close to the three times than a normal Friday, yes.
NORRIS: Well, Mr. Henry, thank you so much for talking to us.
Mr. HENRY: OK. Thank you very much, Michele. Bye-bye.
NORRIS: John Henry owns the Magic Crystal store in the Lehigh Valley Mall just outside Allentown, Pennsylvania.
NORRIS: ...thanks for your help today. Happy shopping to you.
VARKONY: And thank you, Michele. Happy holidays to you.
NORRIS: Pam also introduced us to T.J. Mentasana(ph). He manages Go, a store that sells games. Mentasana says the store opened at about 5:45 AM this morning, but it didn't get busy until about 8, after people had shopped at the bigger stores. He says Go might not have the lowest prices, but they do offer great service.
Mr. T.J. MENTASANA (Go): We're very friendly with the customers. We're not going to push them out of here. We know mainly 90 percent of the games in this store. Where if you go to Toys "R" Us, Wal-Mart, Target, they won't even know what the game is and it'll be right behind 'em.
NORRIS: And sales are good.
Mr. MENTASANA: On a normal Friday, we might only have to do like 1,800 to $2,400, but today we got to do $6,600, and we're I think about 1,500 away from that already, so we're doing pretty good today.
NORRIS: One of the most popular games sold today is called Scene-It?
Mr. MENTASANA: S-C-E-N-E It, question mark. It's a DVD movie trivia game.
NORRIS: By 3:00 Go had sold about 15 at 50 bucks a pop. Mentasana says his store was fully staffed today. All six employees reported for duty.
Mr. MENTASANA: I don't let anybody get off this day. Everybody has to work at some point today.
NORRIS: That's T.J. Mentasana, manager of the Go games store in the Lehigh Valley Mall near Allentown, Pennsylvania.
According to the International Council of Shopping Centers, the day after Thanksgiving is no longer the busiest shopping day of the year. Last year that day came one week before Christmas. But overall, shoppers are predicted to spend more freely this holiday season. The National Retail Federation projects a 6 percent increase in sales over last year. That means revenues for retailers of about $440 billion.
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