November 27, 2009 / 5:36 PM / 10 years ago

Macy's encouraged by early Black Friday signs

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Early Black Friday signs are encouraging for Macy’s Inc, but consumers are still constrained and the company will have to compete for a larger piece of a pie that is not growing, its chief executive said.

Shoppers pass by mannequins on the shop floor of Macy's in search of Black Friday bargains in New York November 27, 2009. REUTERS/Finbarr O'Reilly

The U.S. department chain’s flagship store in Manhattan’s Herald Square had 5,000 visitors lined up before its 5 a.m. opening on Friday, and CEO Terry Lundgren said he was encouraged by the first hours of shopping across the country.

“There’s plenty of traffic in our stores now- it’s just a matter of converting those customers into buyers,” he told Reuters in an interview.

He conceded that shoppers had also turned out in strong numbers for Black Friday in 2008, after which retailers posted the worst holiday sales season in nearly four decades.

“I don’t think necessarily that customers are going to spend more than they spent last year,” Lundgren said.

Until double-digit unemployment and overall economic uncertainty ease, shoppers will remain tight-fisted.

“In the meantime, customers are going to be very selective,” he said.

Earlier in November, Macy’s forecast profits for the current quarter that were below Wall Street expectations.

So the Cincinnati-based chain, which operates about 800 Macy’s stores and 40 Bloomingdale’s locations, will focus on taking market share and continue to offer discounts during the holidays, Lundgren said.

“Our goal is to have customers spend whatever they’re going to spend, but spend more with Macy’s than they did last year.”

Lundgren said some of the items that had sold particularly well on Friday morning included luggage, housewares, electronics such as coffee-makers and a steeply discounted men’s leather bomber jacket.

While Lundgren cautioned that it still early, he said Black Friday was likely to reflect how the rest of the holiday season unfolds.

“You’ve been promoting, you’ve been marketing your message... and customers are either coming in and responding, or they’re not,” Lundgren said.

Reporting by Phil Wahba; Editing by Gunna Dickson and Tim Dobbyn

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