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Black Friday Sales a Mixed Bag Say Midtown Shopping Bag Counters

By DNAinfo Staff on November 26, 2010 7:37am  | Updated on November 26, 2010 4:20pm

Members from the 34th Street BID counted the number of bags leaving area stores to gauge business on the official kick-off to the holiday season.
Members from the 34th Street BID counted the number of bags leaving area stores to gauge business on the official kick-off to the holiday season.
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DNAinfo/Jill Colvin

By Jill Colvin

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

MIDTOWN — The number of holiday shoppers at retailers on 34th Street was a mixed bag on Black Friday, according to the area's Business Improvement District.

Two key shopping destinations showed slight gains over last year but a third experienced a big drop in the number of customers, according to the 34th Street Partnership.

The Partnership hired a quartet of "shopping bag counters" to tally how many bags were toted out of district stores.

They were positioned at four "strategic locations" from 7a.m. to 2 p.m. outside the Macy’s entrances at Seventh Avenue and West 34th Street and on Broadway, the Old Navy store at 150 W. 34th St., and outside the Manhattan Mall.

The spotters counted nearly 6,000 bags at Macy's, an 11 percent rise over numbers from 2009. Old Navy also saw modest gains of 3 percent with 9,096 bags, according to the Partnership.

But Manhattan Mall, which includes retailers like JC Penney, Toys R Us and Victoria's Secret, did poorly this year. Spotters saw fewer than 7,900 bags — a drop of 32 percent over last year's count.

Partnership officials were quick to point out that the lower numbers weren't a sure sign that Black Friday was a bust at the mall. They only counted until the early afternoon and sales could have picked up as shoppers continued to score deals well into the evening, they said.

"There's a long way to go beyond 2 o'clock," said spokesperson Joe Carella.

The partnership first began counting the bags in 2008 after being bombarded with conflicting information about Black Friday holiday shopping, according to Partnership President Daniel Biederman.

"The press was always calling us saying 'What’s happening?' and there was no way to tell them," he said.

"This is a way for us to obtain valuable information about what’s taking place in our own backyard."

Retailers were hoping the day, which marked the official kick-off to the holiday season, would be bright.

All along the stretch, retailers opened their doors at the crack of dawn and advertised big sales to draw customers in.

"It’s crazy…. It’s super big," said Krystle Lopez, a manager at Zara, which opened from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., with merchandise marked down 40 to 50 percent off regular prices.

Lopez said her store’s sales have been up so far this year, and she thinks this holiday season will be stronger than last year.

"We’re bouncing back from the recession this year. We’re totally expecting more," she said.

Biederman said area stores were coming off of a stronger September — typically an indicator of sales to come.