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Queens Chronicle

Retail ritual begins across Queens on 'Black Thursday'

Outlook poor, despite shoppers galore

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Posted: Friday, November 29, 2013 11:56 am | Updated: 11:10 am, Thu Dec 5, 2013.

Thursday is the new black.

Continuing a trend that developed in recent years, holiday shopping that used to kick off on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, began on the holiday itself in Queens and elsewhere, as many large retailers opened their doors Thursday evening.

From the Toys 'R' Us in Long Island City to the Best Buy in Elmhurst, the Macy's in Rego Park and beyond, shoppers lined up early, some for days, and burst into stores en masse as soon as the doors opened, hunting for bargains.

Toys 'R' Us opened at 5 p.m., Best Buy at 6 and Macy's at the Queens Center mall at 8.

Whether their enthusiasm will translate into positive numbers for the retail industry is an open question, however. Analysts such as those at S&P Capital IQ Equity Research are projecting a weak holiday shopping season. Black Friday is so named because it has traditionally been the day when retailers finally go from being in the red to being in the black — that is, turning a profit — so the next few weeks are crucial for them.

S&P Capital IQ, which is a data and research branch of McGraw Hill Financial, last week projected a 2.5 percent increase in general merchandise sales this holiday season over last year's, which would make it the weakest one since 2008.

"Consumer confidence has fallen in recent months, and the equity retail analysts at S&P Capital IQ see many additional factors that are likely to make the 2013 holiday season a bleak one for retailers in general," the firm said in announcing its findings.

It did cite two brick-and-mortar retail firms, GameStop and TJX, the parent company of TJ Maxx, Marshalls and HomeGoods, as having a brighter outlook than most. GameStop should benefit from the introduction of new video game consoles such as the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, analysts said, while TJX stores are attracting "cost-conscious and time-strapped" shoppers with their "strong value proposition and convenient off-mall store locations."

Above all, however, is Amazon. S&P Capital IQ projects the online retailer will see growth of 22 percent in November and December, thanks to low prices, convenient ordering and a favorable return policy.

But it was hard to tell that traditional retailers aren't doing well when they opened their doors in Queens on Thursday. Shoppers flooded the stores, grabbing merchandise left and right and overwhelming employees given the task of, for example, handing out special coupons to the masses.

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