Watch now: At Eastland Mall, hope for a Black Friday business bump – The Pantagraph

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There’s more to good sales when families shop together on Black Friday.
BLOOMINGTON — For some savvy shoppers, the holiday rush is just about here.
Shopping on Black Friday is a tradition Springfield’s Jamie Hammitt does with her mom. She said it begins for her family on Thanksgiving, when they start going through printed advertisements.
“The kids will circle whatever they want, and then we’ll look to see where we can get the best deals and then line it up,” Hammitt told The Pantagraph while shopping at Eastland Mall earlier this month.
Jamie Hammitt of Springfield
She added this year, they’ll get started at 6 a.m., “but we’ve stayed up all night before.”
Eastland Mall is eagerly anticipating shoppers like Hammitt on Friday.
Stacey Keating, senior director of public relations and corporate communication for CBL Properties, Eastland’s parent company, said they are hopeful Eastland Mall will open Friday to more visitors returning to their holiday shopping traditions.
“We’re definitely optimistic about what the holiday season looks like this year,” she said. “Throughout the year we’ve seen traffic increasing and sales increasing and returning to pre-pandemic levels.”
Keating added they saw higher spending for Halloween and back-to-school shopping this year.
Last year, many Black Friday shoppers opted to focus more on Cyber Monday deals and other online or pick-up shopping options, but Keating said she believes people are more comfortable with in-person shopping now, leading them back to the mall this weekend.
“There are people that have Black Friday traditions where they go out with their families and they wear the same outfit and they do it year after year,” Keating said. “It’s not always just about the shopping. It’s about the experience and the event and being in the mall with the holiday decorations. … It’s really the overall experience of Black Friday that I think continues to draw customers back.”
Colleen Henze told The Pantagraph she doesn’t get up early to go out on Black Friday. The mother from Shannon said she coached basketball “forever, so I was always super busy.”
Colleen Henze and her son, Kaden, look at merchandise in the entrance of the Hallmark store while shopping at Eastland Mall on Nov. 12. 
So, Henze said she tries to pay attention to deals ahead of time, figuring out what the kids want and where would be the best place to buy it.
When her kids were little, she said, she had to be organized. Now, she has a son who’s a senior in high school, a daughter at DePaul, and her son, Kaden, who studies at the University of Illinois and wants a noodle maker, she said.
Not everyone plans to browse shelves on the busy shopping day. Pontiac’s Michelle Ewen told The Pantagraph her family stays at home on Black Friday.
Michelle Ewen of Shannon
“That’s all we do,” she said.
Her Mother, Eva Ewen, added her grandkids are all grown.
Eva Ewen of Shannon
For them, the holidays are just about getting together — like having a big family dinner.
“Everybody comes over to my house for Thanksgiving,” Ewen said. “For Christmas, we go to our daughter’s house.”
Eastland Mall will open at 7 a.m. Friday, after CBL decided about five years ago to keep its enclosed malls closed on Thanksgiving Day.
“(The company) felt it was important to allow our employees and the employees of our retailers to spend that day with their family and friends,” Keating said. “And then I think last year a lot of retailers made that choice because 2020 was such a trying year for so many people and they wanted to give them that much-deserved break. They saw how beneficial that was and they saw how well received that was among their employees that they opted to do it again this year.”
Eastland stores with outdoor entrances may open earlier than the rest of the mall, though.
With the threat of shipping delays looming, many people started their holiday shopping early this year, and retailers have responded accordingly.
Early Black Friday discounts and deals kicked off holiday shopping throughout November at stores like Walmart and Kohl’s.
Still, some are just too busy to go to shops on Black Friday — like Bloomington’s Kayla Swearingen, who brought her daughter Kora and son Keaton to Eastland Mall earlier this month. She told The Pantagraph she usually buys from Amazon during its Black Friday sale.
Kayla Swearingen of Bloomington searches her purse for change as she and her daughter, Kora, 4, and son, Keaton, stop by the amusement rides while shopping at Eastland Mall.
That helps her as a parent, she said, “and honestly, going out in crowds is my nightmare.”
Swearingen said they already have a lot of toys, so she’s looking for creative things to do.
“Stuff that means more because people put time into it,” she said.
Kayla Swearingen of Bloomington
Keating said at Eastland, they are encouraging early in-person shopping to ensure holiday gifts are in-hand on time this season.
“That’s one way to guarantee that your gifts will be under the tree on Christmas morning because you won’t have shipping issues to worry about,” she said.
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Contact Brendan Denison at (309) 820-3238. Follow Brendan Denison on Twitter: @BrendanDenison

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Kayla Swearingen of Bloomington searches her purse for change as she and her daughter, Kora, 4, and son, Keaton, stop by the amusement rides while shopping at Eastland Mall.
Colleen Henze and her son, Kaden, look at merchandise in the entrance of the Hallmark store while shopping at Eastland Mall on Nov. 12. 
Kayla Swearingen of Bloomington
Eva Ewen of Shannon
Michelle Ewen of Shannon
Jamie Hammitt of Springfield
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