The Westfield Valencia Town Center mall parking lot was full of hustle and bustle on the morning of Black Friday — but the streets were not as crowded as they could have been.
Following the trends of recent years, most Santa Clarita shoppers had chosen to do their doorbuster-sale-browsing on Thanksgiving evening the night before, when various stores opened from 6 p.m. until 2 a.m., said Westfield Valencia Senior General Manager Corrine Barchanowicz.
The busiest time of year is no longer Black Friday early morning, but Thursday evening after people stuff themselves with turkey. The post-meal kick to find good shopping deals is now when the mall sees the start of its busiest hours on Thanksgiving weekend.
“People come in waves of shoppers,” Barchanowicz said. “In the last few years, consumer behavior has really shifted. We still see generations of shoppers shopping together, with everybody from grandparents and babies to today, moms and daughters. But what was traditionally consolidated to just Black Friday is now extended over the entire four days, including Thursday.”
This new distribution made the crowds more manageable for customers perusing the selection on Friday, a fact that resident Suzanne Regan noticed.
Regan doesn’t shop earlier than Friday morning, but has noticed a change over the years in the amount of people coming out.
“We’ve only been to three stores so far this morning,” Regan said, gesturing at the bags on her arm as she stood in the middle of the jewelry selection at JC Penney’s. “The crowds haven’t been as bad as I thought they would. I know Penney’s used to do discount cards, but now apparently they all went away because people were already lining up last night. It’s crazy.
“I’m just here to do Black Friday,” she said. “And maybe Cyber Monday. But I’m not trying to go crazy.”
Some people shopping at the Santa Clarita mall had fled from the south to check out some deals.
“The crowds here are so mild,” said Ahleea Brenner, a West Hills resident who had come to Westfield Valencia for the day.
“I always do my shopping two days before Christmas, but this year I wanted to come here for the thrill of it,” she said. “And the (San Fernando) valley is not the place for that. I wanted to avoid too many people, but it looks like I lucked out here.”
Brenner’s companion, Canoga Park resident Luigi Steeve, said the duo were pleasantly surprised to find browsing in peace was doable in Santa Clarita.
“Apparently people shop on Thanksgiving night now, which is weird,” he said. “But this year, Black Friday is doable because there’s less people around.”
Barchanowicz said JC Penney is a central location of the main entry to the mall, and the fountain near the store, inside the mall, serves as a gathering place for tired shoppers.
On the second floor is the mall’s “Holiday Lodge,” where shoppers can get their presents gift wrapped.
“Ultimately, we hope the mall is everyone’s place to celebrate their holiday shopping,” Barchanowicz said. “We have plenty of stores offering deals, but also strong promotions and restaurants for those who want to take the weekend off cooking. We also are introducing a holiday shuttle to help with a high demand of parking, and people can also use our valet for $10 if they don’t want to waste time looking for a spot.”
For some Santa Clarita residents, the lesser Black Friday crowds made for an appealing — and safe — experience for bringing young children.
“We were expecting the rush to be a lot worse, but it’s been nice,” resident Adrienne Morales said. “I haven’t gone Black Friday shopping in a few years because we’ve had kids, so we had to cut back. But now, even with toddlers, they’re in good spirits because there aren’t too many people.”
Morales said her sons, Nathan, 4, and Noe, 3, were enjoying their first holiday season seeing the crowds.
“It’s a real way to get into the holiday spirit,” she said. “We’ve done a bit of shopping already, but we’re really here so our kids can see what the mall is like during the holidays.”