A rotating schedule of overnight and early-morning store openings significantly eased the Black Friday crowds at the Glendale Galleria, producing a much calmer scene compared to years past.
Black Friday used to be confined to early-morning store openings, attracting huge crowds of pre-dawn deal seekers. But this year, with major retailers pushing their opening times further into Thursday, the onslaught of shoppers was spread out, leaving relatively normal conditions for those who arrived at 6 or 7 a.m.
The difference wasn't lost on Eva Hermano, who was shopping with her daughter, Leslie, at the Galleria at 6:30 a.m.
“I said to her, ‘Where are all the people?'” she said.
Many of them had done their early-bird shopping at Target, which opened at 9 p.m. Thursday, and Macy's, which opened at midnight, depleting the typical Black Friday crowd before the rest of the mall had even opened.
“There certainly appear to be people who are shopping earlier and probably finishing their shopping around 2 or 3 a.m.,” said Brent Shoenbaum with consulting firm Deloitte & Touche. “The earlier openings draw people in sooner, and they leave earlier than the morning shift that typically emerges at 6 a.m.”
Shoshanna Puccia, senior marketing manager at the Galleria, compared it to an amusement park, where rides might open at different times, and crowds amass when their favorite attraction starts running.
At JCPenney, for example, the main checkout line was 30 people deep at 7 a.m., an hour after its 6 a.m. opening.
Denise Milanovich, a vendor for Guess, said the ebb and flow will probably continue throughout the day, particularly after the midnight shoppers get a few hours of shut-eye.
“They'll be back at noon,” she said.
Eunice Santiago was among the shoppers who braved the overnight store openings, having started at 10 p.m. Thursday at Sears before heading to Macy's at midnight.
She was getting ready to head home early Friday as soon as her other family members wrapped up their shopping.
“I have family all around the mall — aunts, my mom,” she said.
Eiselle Ty, a senior at Providence High School in Burbank, took a break in the food court after having started shopping at midnight at Urban Outfitters.
She was joined at 6 a.m. by her friend, Hadrien Parentella, who preferred to skip the pre-dawn shopping expedition.
“This is why we're not boyfriend and girlfriend,” Ty said, laughing.
Across the street at the Americana at Brand, the crowds were sparse at 9 a.m., with few customers in several of the stores.
Even the ever-popular Apple store, which opened at 8 a.m., had fewer than 20 customers inside.
By early afternoon, though, the crowds at both malls were robust.
Follow Mark Kellam on Twitter: @LAMarkKellam.