McALLEN — Black Friday shoppers being camped outside of shopping centers for a place in line seemed to be a thing of the past, at least at La Plaza Mall on Friday.
That doesn’t mean, however, that foot traffic didn’t eventually pick up, and pick up it did.
With doors opening at 6 a.m. and a near empty parking lot, it was difficult to set the morning apart from any other. Most shoppers there that morning were teens and young adults who strolled from store to store without haste.
Managers and other employees at La Plaza Mall blame the pandemic and cold weather for the low morning turnout, saying it makes it harder for people to get out of bed in the mornings.
Shoppers at the Rio Grande Valley Premium Outlets in Mercedes found more activity, as cars were parked all along the frontage road since the parking lots were at capacity by 5 a.m.
Julia Auguste, a Valley resident in her early 20s, said this was her first Black Friday experience.
Auguste arrived at the mall at 5:30 a.m. prepared to be the first in line for jeans at Aeropostale, Hollister and Abercrombie. Upon arrival she realized that not only was she the first in line but also the only one.
Alexandra Villareal, a McAllen resident in her 20s, said the mall was her second stop of the morning with Best Buy being the first.
Villareal was in pursuit of a keyboard and successfully copped one, and ventured to La Plaza to see what other deals she could find at the mall’s Sephora and Lush.
The slow morning at Sephora left manager Lizeth Hall hoping for traffic to pick up during the regular hours.
Hall said she has worked at the location for six years and does not feel the chaos she did in previous years.
She said the younger generations tend to wake up earlier to shop while families come in later in the day.
Chloe Cortez, a Pandora employee, said she has worked five Black Fridays at the location and has seen a large decline in attendance in the earlier part of the day despite bigger deals this year.
“It’s a big difference and I’m assuming COVID has a lot to do with it and it’s super cold outside,” Cortez said. “So, it’s not like the years before when we’ve had lines and lines, but hopefully traffic will pick up within the next couple hours.”
Maynard Espera, a young man from McAllen, lugged around a giant yellow Lego bag with the newest ATAT walker from Star Wars in La Plaza.
Espera said he was not planning on making the purchase until he saw his friend, D.J. Vista, light up at the sight of the set.
“I wasn’t planning on buying it but when I saw it in person I thought, why not,” Espera said.
He said he has attended Black Friday sales before and feels like he has to make up for lost time given that he couldn’t attend last year due to the pandemic.
Despite his excitement to spend his money on the Black Friday deals, Espera said he is confident in his purchase for now, but fears he will regret it later.
Timothy Sanchez, of Weslaco, was in the only line in the entire mall early Friday morning at tdK.
The line of about 10 young people was the closest the mall got to a crowd Friday morning.
Sanchez said tdK attracted the largest line for its selection of Jordans, Yeezys and plenty more.
The Weslaco native said this is his second Black Friday venture and first this early. The year before Sanchez arrived at 8 a.m. but had little to choose from.
This year he said he was searching for shoes for his younger brother and sister to gift for Christmas.
The mall began to see shoppers fill up around 8 a.m., an indication that jostling for positions in early morning lines may be a thing of the past, at least for now.
As the morning progressed, more and more began filling up the mall, eventually resembling a busy weekend as shoppers opted not to head out early and instead flowed in slowly throughout the day.
By 11 a.m., holiday shopping was in full tilt at La Plaza, perhaps signaling a potential holiday revenue boon during a time in which Valley cities are also seeing a rise in sales tax receipts.