Despite slow start, thousands head to Hawaii malls for a different kind of Black Friday

Large crowds were observed at shopping centers across the state on Friday.
Large crowds were observed at shopping centers across the state on Friday.(Hawaii News Now)
Updated: Nov. 27, 2020 at 3:50 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - It wasn’t the typical Black Friday crowds seen in previous years, but many still headed to Oahu malls early in the day to snag deals in what promises to be a different experience on the biggest shopping day of the year.

Dozens were seen waiting outside Pearlridge Center before the mall opened, including Kenny Rodriguez, who arrived around 2 a.m.

“Trying to get my hands on a PS5 or maybe an Xbox,” he said. “I kind of decided to come because with COVID being a thing, I knew the lines would be, it wouldn’t be as crazy this year.”

Rodriguez said he was at GameStop at Waikele Premium Outlets earlier in the morning and noticed some 20 to 30 people waiting in line there.

It was a different story at Ala Moana Center early Friday, where shoppers slowly trickled in — a stark difference from previous years, where shoppers flocked to the malls as early as Thursday.

For those who want to avoid waiting in lines, the state’s largest shopping center is offering curbside pickup for customers of some stores.

“They’re focusing on what they can control and continuing to find new and innovative and creative ways to manage through this,” said Jake Wilson, Ala Moana Center’s general manager.

Under the city’s reopening strategy, Oahu is only in the second tier, which means that retailers can only operate at 50% capacity.

[READ MORE: As COVID restrictions batter mall sales, shopping centers try new strategies for Black Friday]

That doesn’t bode well for sales at traditional brick-and-mortar stores.

“When you’re 50% down, you’re constricted. It’s like of like you and I walking with one arm and one leg tied,” said real estate expert Stephany Sofos.

The pandemic and social distancing requirements have already wrecked havoc in Hawaii’s retail sector. National retailer Williams Sonoma is in the process of closing its Ala Moana store. Banana Republic closed its store at the mall in the summer.

“That shows you that national and international tenants are concerned because Hawaii has been the best market for them ever,” said Sofos.

But Wilson believes retailers will learn to adapt to the changing real estate landscape.

“It’s going to be an evolution and I am excited to see and be a part of that future,” he said.

This story will be updated.

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