The Clifton Park Center mall was full of activity Friday morning. Besides the sales, Dickie’s Barbeque Pit was giving out free samples and the mall itself was giving out free gift cards every half hour.
Rob Ristaw, the mall’s general manager, said it was a successful Black Friday.
“I measure it by how far out and how consistently packed the cars are in the lot. Right now, we’re solid all the way out to the Olive Garden,” which he said was very good.
Ristaw spent much of his day “walking the floor” and said all of the mall’s stores were bustling with shoppers.
Near the mall entrance, in JCPenney, customers gathered in groups around menswear, kitchen equipment and perfume displays to debate which deals were most worth their money. When in doubt about a color or style, shoppers used their cellphones to call or text for confirmation.
Across the street, at Toys ‘R’ Us, employees with shopping carts full of toys were on constant duty, restocking shelves. Electronics were popular, but so too were traditional toys such as Legos, books and sporting goods.
Clifton Park Center opened at 7 a.m., though some stores, like Boscov’s, opened as early at 3 a.m. Ristaw said opening Thursday evening or Friday at midnight “doesn’t quite fit the property, we’ve found.”
“Thanksgiving is Thanksgiving, and we’d like to keep it a family day,” he explained. “We’re up for change, but only if it’s change in the right direction. Our motto this year was, ‘Go ahead, sleep in — we’ll be open when you wake up.’ ”
He said the current schedule has been well-received by both retailers and customers.
Retailers are expecting a solid holiday shopping season. According to the results of a survey of Retail Council of New York State members published Nov. 8, 78 percent of retailers believe their 2012 holiday season numbers will be as good or better than those from 2011.
Michael Snyder, 21, lives in Troy and spent his Black Friday shopping at Walmart in Cobleskill on Thursday night and at Rotterdam Square on Friday morning.
“My brothers kind of dragged me to Walmart last night to help them do their shopping. They both went to buy televisions, video games, electronics mostly. Deals on TVs were everywhere. Those were big,” he said. “It’s exciting to go out and see all the people who are out for the same reason you are. It’s an exciting atmosphere, even if it’s a very consumerist one. It’s still exciting.”
Snyder was one of the first four people in line for the release of the video game “Just Dance 4.” He said he wasn’t a fan of the new Thursday sale hours, though, because they cut into time that could be spent sharing Thanksgiving with his family.
“The sales were confusing, too,” he said. “Each store had an 8 p.m. sale, a midnight sale, and, like, a 5 a.m. sale, so you had to make sure you were buying the right thing at the right time to get the deal you wanted.”
Traci Nelson and her daughter, Jessica Swift, both of Fultonham, went to the Walmart in Cobleskill on Thursday night, as well. They said they liked the earlier sale times because it allowed them to get their shopping done sooner.
“Walmart was absolutely packed,” said Swift, “but it emptied out after 11:30 p.m.”
After Walmart, Nelson and Swift went to Kmart and Sears in Rotterdam Square for more shopping. There, they said, it became busy as the afternoon wore on.
It was a quiet morning, though, at Rotterdam Square. At 8 a.m., Santa Claus prepared for his shift at the center of the mall by grabbing a cup of coffee at Court Side News. Local radio station Fly 92.3 FM was giving out T-shirts, Frisbees and CDs from a table near the food court. Roving families of shoppers concentrated themselves in Macy’s, Sears and Kmart, where they bought power tools, electronics, clothing and shoes.
By 10 a.m., those shoppers were growing tired and a new, larger wave began to arrive. Men and women gathered at tables in the food court or on the benches outside stores, waiting to be collected by their shopping partners.
Regardless of when or where people did their shopping, the spirit of Black Friday was the same. Snyder said he and his three companions at the front of the line in Walmart got their shins kicked and their shoes scuffed by a group of three young girls who scrambled to get the first three copies of “Just Dance 4” when the game was released at 8 p.m.
Snyder laughed as he related the story.
“I thought they were going to get trampled at first,” he said. “I was shocked by how brutal these three little girls were. I was going to get three copies for them.”