Back to their old traditions: Shoppers fill suburban malls on Black Friday
It felt like old times at suburban malls Friday as shoppers packed store aisles searching for deals and renewed Black Friday traditions largely forgotten or scaled down the past two holiday seasons.
"It's exciting to have people back at the mall," Heather Lloyd, director of marketing at Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg, said as hundreds of shoppers streamed by. "And people aren't coming just for the shopping; they are getting back to their old traditions."
Near the Chicago Premium Outlet Mall in Aurora, cars filled with shoppers were lined up for at least a quarter-mile Friday morning along Interstate 88 at the Farnsworth Avenue northbound exit. By 1 p.m., Aurora police closed the mall's entrance and announced it had reached capacity. Entrances were intermittently opened about an hour later.
Just seven miles away at the Fox Valley Mall, a group of five women from the western Illinois towns of Fulton and Albany as well as Clinton, Iowa, were shopping in matching bedazzled jackets with "Evie's Angels" emblazoned on the back.
For more than 30 years the group has been gathering at the mall on Black Friday in a tradition started by Sally Mussmann's late mother, Evie.
"Every year we add something to our outfits (in Evie's honor)," Mussmann said. This year, it was pink felt Disney-themed stocking caps.
They depart at 6 a.m. and return home around midnight, having shopped at Fox Valley and nearby strip malls before wrapping up the day with dinner.
On the mall's upper level near Macy's, Nick Lucente and Brianna Bruno took a break after their first round of shopping for their children.
"We just saw these chairs," Bruno said, as the two relaxed in vibrating massage chairs.
Why deal with the Black Friday crowds?
"We just want to make sure our kids get everything," Lucente said, adding that they also were shopping for their 2-year-old son's birthday, which is Sunday.
Waiting in line to get into the Lululemon store at Woodfield, Erika Brit of Burbank said she has shopped on Black Friday for the last 10 years or so.
"It feels good to start the holiday season," Brito said. "And a good way to spend time with my daughter."
While many industry experts predicted the crowds this year would be larger than 2021's -- such as the National Retail Federation's forecast of a 5% increase from last Thanksgiving weekend -- record inflation has many wondering how much people would spend.
J. Scott Samson, senior general manager of Fox Valley Mall, said that despite the uncertainty, Black Friday was looking like the mall's biggest day of the year.