Black Friday shopping picks up after slow start at St. Johns Town Center

Those who woke up early for holiday shopping didn’t have to battle crowds this year

VIDEO: Zac Lashway reports on local shopping in the St. Johns Town Center.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Black Friday is easily the biggest shopping day of the year, but you might not have guessed that if you woke up early to take advantage of so-called door-buster deals at the St. Johns Town Center.

The outdoor shopping mall on Jacksonville’s Southside typically is the busiest destination for shoppers, no matter what time of year. Combine that with the trend of people camping out the night before so they can be first in line for hotly anticipated bargains and you’ve got a recipe for major crowds.

Astonishingly, that wasn’t the case Friday morning.

With most stores opening at 6 a.m., there were few signs of life earlier than that. Perhaps the lone exception was Old Navy, which has been open since 3 p.m. Thanksgiving Day. Employees told News4Jax things were busy the day before and slowed down overnight. Shoppers weren’t mad about that.

“The only things missing are the door-busters,” said Amber Steinhour, who hadn’t slept since waking up Thursday morning. “It’s so dead, I was hoping we were going to get in on it.”

“There’s no crowd, there’s no line, there’s nothing – it’s been great,” she added.

Activity at the mall began picking up about an hour later as additional stores opened their doors. But even then, it wasn’t the madhouse most people have come to expect on Black Friday.

That was quite alright with Chantal Graham, who used to make a habit of getting her shopping out of the way over the holiday weekend. This year, though, she’s on a mission.

“I am fine with it because I know what I want, so that’s all,” Graham said. “(And) I am going to get it.”

The lack of crowds is a bit surprising considering the National Retail Federation estimates over 165 million people are likely to shop from Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday. On Black Friday alone, the industry trade group anticipated 114.6 million people would be shopping nationwide.

“If you look around, you’re like, ‘What happened? Where is everybody at?’” quipped Joven Spears.

Fortunately for procrastinators, there will be more deals available on Small Business Saturday when 66.6 million people are expected to shop, and again on Cyber Monday when nearly 69 million are expected to set their sights on finding the best bargains available online.

While 41 percent of people plan to start their shopping online, an even greater number of people (47 percent) still plan to visit stores in person, according to the NRF. Younger people will contribute to that with 52 percent of those under the age of 25 planning to shop in-store.

For people who can’t resist heading to the store, there’s an amenity at the Town Center you might not know about. It’s a complimentary shuttle service that runs noon to 9 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays, as well as daily throughout the month of December. Just dial 904-610-9182.

“You can just call the shuttle and they’ll come pick you up, or hail them like a cab,” said Ashlee Schneider, marketing and business development director for St. Johns Town Center parent company Simon Property group.

“So if you’re parking in front of Target and you want to go to a shop on the other side of the mall, maybe Tiffany’s or Apple, they’ll come and pick you up and bring you to the store,” Schneider said. “And then they’ll bring you back to your car.”

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