DARKE COUNTY — The annual “Biggest Shopping Day of the Year,” Black Friday, came and went again this weekend with retailers throughout Ohio extending their normal business hours to attract dedicated holiday shoppers.
Locally, the Miami Valley Centre Mall in Piqua opened at 6 a.m. Friday morning — four hours earlier than usual — while the Richmond Mall opened its doors from 6 p.m. until midnight Thanksgiving Day. Walmarts throughout the region opened at 6 p.m. Thursday and continued doing business overnight.
According to a report by the Associated Press, shoppers still turn out at physical stores in record numbers on Black Friday, despite the fact that many of the same sales are also offered online. Lines are said to have begun forming outside Minnesota’s Mall of America — currently the country’s largest indoor shopping mall — at 4 p.m. Thanksgiving Day, 13 hours before the shopping center was scheduled to open.
Statistics suggest that in-store pickup of merchandise ordered online doubled on Wednesday and Thursday of last week. While consumers increased their spending over the first half of 2018, however, retail sales have recently begun to fall off. Figures over the holiday season, allegedly, may have a lot to say about how confident U.S. shoppers are in the nation’s economy.
The National Retail Federation, meanwhile, has projected holiday retail sales to increase by nearly five percent over last year’s totals with much of that coming from online shopping. Over the past year, online sales have jumped 12.1 percent, while brick and mortar sales have dropped slightly. This Thanksgiving apparently saw $3.7 billion in online retail sales, an increase of 28 percent from last year, while Black Friday totals were expected to hit over $6 billion.
As usual, more than just shopping took place on Black Friday. In Hamilton County, an investigation ensued after a child was found wandering alone inside a J.C. Penney. Deputies responded to the store at just after midnight. The boy’s mother was eventually located, though the incident remains under investigation by the Sheriff’s Office and Job and Family Services.
Darke County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Mark Whittaker previously spoke to The Daily Advocate about the numerous dangers shoppers need to be aware of during the holiday season, including increased odds of being involved in a car accident, as well as falling victim to robbery or identity theft.
“Wear your seatbelt,” Whittaker said. “Be patient, and give yourself time to get wherever you’re going. Be aware that there’s likely to be significant holiday-related traffic no matter where you go, be it Dayton, Richmond, Columbus or Indianapolis.”
Whittaker also advised residents to be aware of their surroundings when walking to their cars and to quickly get inside, lock the doors and secure themselves if approached by someone they don’t know.
Some retailers, including Walmart, hire off-duty sheriff’s deputies to provide security during holiday shopping events, Whittaker said, both to guard against shoppers being victimized and to prevent chaos and fighting among customers themselves. Whittaker stressed that, while everyone is looking for the best deal they can get during the holidays, it’s not worth getting into a fight just to save a few dollars.
“At the end of the day,” Whittaker said, “is it worth it to get into some kind of assault when we’re supposed to be doing this in the spirit of the season?”