Despite health warnings, eager holiday shoppers were out and about across Oahu looking to scoop up the best deals of the year.
Holly Mactagone waited in line for 5-1/2 hours to get into the locally owned Hawaii’s Finest boutique at Ka Makana Alii in Kapolei. She and her family members arrived at 6 a.m., when the line already wrapped around the building.
Under Oahu’s current COVID-19 safety rules, retailers are allowed to let shoppers inside stores at only 50% capacity. The state Health Department also urged people to shop online this Black Friday rather than in person to prevent coronavirus transmission.
Mactagone had already done most of her shopping online before Black Friday, which is considered among the biggest shopping days of the year.
“With the pandemic it just makes sense. They’re pretty much running the same percentage deals online, and some are even better,” she said.
Tanna Dang, owner of the popular Eden in Love boutique in Kakaako, said the store beat last year’s Black Friday sales goal by 15% despite forgoing a massive pop-up shop this year.
Instead, she started Black Friday promotions online Nov. 6, and that helped her double the sales goal for the month by Thanksgiving, “which is huge, considering we’re in the middle of a pandemic.”
“I am beyond amazed. I’m blown away by the power of the internet,” she said, adding that her boutique has reached customers all over the world, including South Carolina, New Jersey and Saipan. “Our online sales will definitely help offset the months we were closed. Of course, it would be ideal to be open in-store and pivot to an e-commerce site, but seeing how comfortable our customers are online gives us hope that retail will thrive this season.”
Dozens of shoppers were lined up outside Pearlridge Center in Aiea by 2:30 a.m., said Marketing Director Diana Su. The mall opened at 5:45 a.m. to bustling crowds similar to normal times on the day after Thanksgiving.
There were the traditional crowds of people waiting for doorbuster deals, particularly the Sony PlayStation 5.
“We do have doorbuster sales because today Pearlridge Center is very busy, but we’re not allowing large crowds to gather. Everybody has been steadily flowing in versus coming in at one time in one large crowd,” said Su, adding that many retailers have opted to use virtual wait lines rather than having customers physically wait outside their doors.
Native Hawaiian designer Manaola Yap was one of them.
His namesake boutique, Manaola, typically attracts long lines of customers outside. To keep lines at a minimum, he started using a virtual queue system, which notifies shoppers when they are at the front of the line so that they can return to the store.
Just three days before Black Friday, Yap moved the boutique into a space that is three times larger at the mall and has so far seen about the same amount of year-over-year sales. The local designer said he feels “very blessed” that his customers have been understanding and compromising and willing to shop during this pandemic, “which is something (that) for a lot of businesses was a little worrisome.”
“We didn’t know … what to expect with our turnout,” especially when working at 50% capacity. But so far, he’s seen a consistent flow of customers.
“With the support of our community and customer base, we are seeing comparable numbers to last year, which is really just blowing us away,” he said of the business, which also features other local designers and craftsmen. “We’re definitely seeing an increase in shopping local this holiday season, which is wonderful for our local economy.”
After months of readjusting following government- mandated closures, things are finally “looking positive.”
“With how things have gone this past week and into this Black Friday weekend, it’s definitely enough to help us slowly get our bearings back as a company on the financial side,” he said. “I feel like everything’s going to be OK.”
Su added that retailers were pleasantly surprised with the strong foot traffic heading into the holiday season.
“No one was quite certain how any of these retailers would perform, but the turnout we had today at Pearlridge Center has created a sense of excitement,” she said. “Our numbers are really strong so far, and we still have the entire weekend to go. It is creating a sense of normalcy during a time where nothing is normal.”