Mike McAvinue, The Mall at Short Hills general manager, didn't have the luxury of a long Thanksgiving weekend.
"I've been here since 5 a.m," he said. "The reaction I'm getting from retailers as I walk around is a big thumbs up, but they've been too busy to stop and talk."
McAvinue estimated mall traffic is up 8-10 percent from last year. He attributes the increase to pent up demand, and more consumer confidence. "Luxury brands are popular this year," he said "Higher end watches are and cashmere goods have been doing well."
A reassuring trend McAvinue has noticed is the resurgance of self purchasing amongst Friday's shoppers—they're buying goods for themselves as well as gifts for others. "I haven't seen that since (2007)," he said.
Shoppers Lena Sernoff and Lia Wallfisch echoed that sentiment. "We came out hoping to find sales on clothing for ourselves," Sernoff said. "I'll shop for my gifts later."
Many shoppers were doing both. In the afternoon, Adriana Ros took a break from shopping at the Continentals Chase VIP Lounge, a pop up lounge for Continental Chase card holders to relax or check their coats while holiday shopping. The three women had been at the mall since it opened at 8 am.
"We've never been to the mall for Black Friday, so we thought let's do it. We found a parking spot right away," said Ros. "We were shopping for clothes and gifts. I found a coat for myself."
Ros estimated she got most of her holiday shopping done Friday "I have one or two people left to buy for, but that's not bad," she said. "I think we found some pretty good deals today."
Some shoppers like Ros' mother Helena, said to see the mall busy was reassuring. "It's good for the economy," she said. "People want to buy gifts, they are more confident in things."
"I'd definitely do it again. Once a year's not bad," Ros said when asked if she'd shop at the mall on Black Friday again.
McAvinue said the the mall will meet or exceed the 2-3 percent rise in sales that the National Federation of Retailers is projecting for Black Friday 2010.
"The parking lot is full, there are more shoppers buying than just browsing and we have the holiday crowd—friends and relatives visiting who may not have these stores near their homes," he said. "It definitely has an upbeat feel. Even our valet and restaurant numbers are up from last year."
Some stores like Macy's opened at 4 a.m. to capitalize on the Black Friday's hype, while others offered early bird sales, but McAvinue says even those stores who typically don't offer deep discounts on merchandise are seeing a surge in business. "This morning we had shoppers in search of discounts and moderate brands and those buying a couple $10,000 Rolex," he siad.
While The Mall saw an uptick in business downtown Millburn merchants reported a quiet day. "They're all at the mall," Renee Mayronne, the owner of Gito reported. "We weren't unusually slow, but our customer is either shopping for themselves or for a significant other. We don't get brothers shopping for sisters or anything like that. Next week and the week after will be our busy holiday time. We'll have customers looking for their New Year's outfits or clothes to go away."
Mayronne's estimation seems to be that of other retailers downtown. "It was quiet, but it's always quiet for us this day," Susan Scott of Pierre Deux said. "We might get new customers, locals who haven't been in before because they work in the city but have the day off. Next week is when we see business pick up."