Black Friday 2021: Entrances to Aurora outlet mall temporarily closed due to crowds

ByDiane Pathieu, Tre Ward, and Maher Kawash WLS logo
Saturday, November 27, 2021
Shoppers return to in-person Black Friday traditions
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Now that the Thanksgiving feast is over, millions of Americans have put down the plates and picked up their wallets this weekend.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Thousands of people flooded the streets of Chicago to do some Black Friday shopping, but some could struggle to find what they need with supply chain issues impacting stores everywhere.

Online shopping has seemingly taken over this American tradition in recent years, but some people are happy to be doing it the old-fashioned way: in person.

"Stores were definitely a lot emptier this year," shopper Maggie Wolfe said. "But, you know, got some good deals. Like to go shopping for things I need in my life, get some gifts for people, so it worked out well."

While shoppers trickled into the Kohls in Bucktown, crowds were spotted waiting in line outside the Chicago Premium Outlets mall in west suburban Aurora Friday morning.

Aurora police tweeted that the mall had reached capacity at 12:17 p.m. Mall entrances were closed temporarily and traffic was redirected. The mall reopened a short time later.

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Despite almost every major retailer shutting down on Thanksgiving, experts say people spent roughly $5.1 billion on Thursday. Another $9 billion is expected to be spent on Black Friday. Small shops in Chicago's South Loop were hoping to cash in.

"The small businesses is what make up the community," said Marquisha Washington, owner of Sultry Steps. "And also, if you support small businesses, you're supporting someone's dream. So that's really important."

One major problem this year is the supply chain issue. Economists say people understand there could be less on store shelves this year, and an estimated 46% of shoppers say they plan to shop earlier than normal.

"Thankfully, I don't have any like, hard to find things I would like to believe, but I think pants are safe," shopper Shannon Tetteh said. "As far as electronics go, I know there's a huge shortage with the supply chain and everything. So we're just keeping everything really simple."

In fact, the National Retail Federation says they predict that between Thanksgiving Day and Cyber Monday this year, we should see an increase of shoppers from last year by nearly 2 million.

And in another change this year, many major retailers like Kohls, Target and Best Buy didn't open at midnight on Thanksgiving like they usually do, instead staying closed until Friday morning.

"I think that's fabulous," shopper Tricia Poisson said. "I think people should be able to be with their families and participate. And it's just crazy. People need to sleep, and you're going to come out and shop no matter what time it is, right? Even when they did open all night, we never came out then."

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Shoppers are expected to pay on average of between 5% to 17% more for toys, clothing, appliances, TVs and others purchases on Black Friday this year compared with last year, according to Aurelien Duthoit, senior sector advisor at Allianz Research.

TVs will see the highest price hike on average, up 17% from a year ago, according to the research firm. That's because whatever discounts available will be applied to goods that are already expensive.

"I think it is going to be a messy holiday season," said Neil Saunders, managing director at GlobalData Retail. "It will be a bit frustrating for retailers, consumers and the workers. We are going to see long lines. We are going to see messier stores. We are going to see delays as you collect online orders."

Despite all the challenges, experts believe that sales for the Thanksgiving week and overall season will be strong.

U.S. retail sales, excluding auto and gas, from this past Monday through Sunday are expected to increase 10% from last year and 12.2% from the 2019 holiday season, according to Mastercard SpendingPulse, which measures overall retail sales across all payment types including cash and check.

Sales on Black Friday are expected to surge 20% from a year ago as store traffic comes back.

For the November and December period, the National Retail Federation, the nation's largest retail trade group, predicts that sales will increase between 8.5% and 10.5%. Holiday sales increased 8.2% in 2020 when shoppers, locked down during the early part of the pandemic, spent their money on pajamas and home goods.

And now that the Thanksgiving feast is over, millions of Americans have put down the plates and picked up their wallets this weekend.

From the suburbs to the city, many people started their shopping this Black Friday. Its is an all-day event both online and in the stores, but many people said they're eager to get back out in the crowds to shop the old-fashioned way, in-person.

"It was heart-warming to see these streets so full because you walked around a year ago, a couple months ago," said Kamau Stewart. "It was heart-warming to see these streets so full because you walked around a year ago, a couple months ago, it was a ghost town."

Shoppers turned out despite the cold temperatures.

"Sometimes we like a little breeze, you know?" said shopper Yazan Asfour.

Many people were bundled up with their wallets not too far away.

"I'm actually tired," Stewart said. I'm carrying everything I own right now."

They shopped through the late evening hours in hopes to snag a deal or two.

"Man, we just hit up Zara and Banana [Republic]," said shopper Yazan Asfour.

Yazan and his brother, Adam, got to as many deals as they could find.

"They can get you with these deals," Adam said. "You'll go in and buy something that you didn't even know you wanted."

Black Friday, a shopping tradition for most Americans, wavered last year due to the pandemic. Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus also marked the return of holiday shopping on Oak Street in Chicago with festive lights and music.

It seemed many were ready to tackle the aisles in full force.

"Everything's opened! Life is back," Yazan said. "Feels like Chicago again."

Consumers prepared for a weekend of shopping.

"Have fun with your family," said Adam. "Just enjoy the holidays!"

Some of the deals will still remain through the weekend.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.