This Friday will be the fourth Black Friday for the giant American Dream mall in the New Jersey Meadowlands. But in a lot of ways it feels like the first real one.
Heading into the big holiday weekend, American Dream, for the first time, finds itself with a critical mass of retail and dining options to complement its entertainment venues, enabling it to be able to host both bargain hunters and experience seekers on what typically has been the biggest shopping day of the year.
Luck also seems to be on the Dream’s side this year. Unlike its first three Black Fridays, when construction delays, then the pandemic, postponed store openings and kept many shoppers at home, this year American Dream is hitting its stride just as analysts and retail experts are predicting Americans are going to enthusiastically return to malls on Black Friday and for the rest of the holiday season.
American Dream enters the crucial holiday season with good news about its financing. It announced earlier this month that it has secured extended financing through October 2026 from lenders led by JPMorgan.
American Dream isn’t just waiting for the predicted Black Friday crowds to arrive. It is making an extra effort to draw them in with giveaways, concerts, an ice-skating Santa, and contests with prizes ranging from season passes to its theme parks, to big-screen TVs, and jewelry from Tiffany & Co.
It will open its doors at 7 a.m. on Black Friday, and the first 500 visitors to arrive will receive gifts ranging from gift cards and retailer freebies to tickets to American Dream attractions.
On Black Friday, and on Mondays and Wednesday throughout December, shoppers who spend $200 at the center – at retail stores, restaurants, or attractions – will have an opportunity to spin a contest wheel to win prizes including 65-inch Samsung smart TVs from Best Buy
The center is calling its holiday campaign Dreamland, and has posted information about the planned events and activities on its website.
The goal, Bryan Gaus, senior vice president and general manager at American Dream, said is to create unique ways to provide “unexpected surprise and delight moments for our guests.”
“Black Friday is such a fun time for our shoppers and families and we want to make it unique. And that’s exactly what American Dream can do,” Gaus said.
“We are really excited for this Black Friday,” Gaus said, noting that with the retail and restaurant openings this year American Dream now can offer the full spectrum of shopping, dining, and attractions.
American Dream, he said, is a place where “guests can come in, shop for awhile, take a break and go to one of our attractions, go get something to eat, and then go back to shopping.”
American Dream and other U.S. malls have good reason to be optimistic this year. Surveys and retail forecasts are showing that not only are Americans planning to shop like it’s 2019, with no worries about the pandemic, but that they may also shop like it’s 1999, and do more spending in person, rather than online.
The latest holiday survey from ICSC, the trade group representing shopping centers and other marketplaces, found that consumers are planning to spend 10% more during the holiday season than last year, and that 89% expect to shop between Thanksgiving Day and Cyber Monday.
Even better news for places like American Dream is the survey finding that more than three-quarters of consumers said they plan to visit a mall or retail marketplace during that five-day period. Of those consumers, 59% said they planned to shop. Dining was another top activity, at 48%, followed by seeing a movie (29%), attending holiday-themed events (21%), and taking a child to see Santa (15%).
“We’re looking at 230 million people going shopping between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday, which is a significant amount of people,” said Stephanie Cegielski, vice president of research and public relations at the ICSC.
“People just really enjoy the holiday weekend. And we’re finally at a point where the pandemic feels like it is in the past and they can go back to doing the things they loved to do,” Cegielski said.
Deloitte’s Black Friday-Cyber Monday survey, released this week, showed consumers will spend 12% more during the big sales weekend. Deloitte also found that younger generations are most likely to shop over the weekend, with 86% of Gen Z, and 89% of millennials planning to do so.
Shoppers, according to forecasters, are also expected to see stores, and in-person shopping, as the best places to grab deals, as retailers cut prices to clear excess inventory that previously had been delayed by supply chain issues.
American Dream’s Gaus said the center is well prepared to handle large crowds on Black Friday and throughout the season.
“This is a very large facility that can accommodate, and has proven to accommodate a lot of people,” he said.
American Dream showed it can handle large crowds in September, when YouTube celebrity Jimmy Donaldson (aka Mr. Beast opened his first restaurant location, and fans filled the center and waited up to 15 hours to try a burger.
“We have plenty of room for anyone who’d like to spend a day at American Dream on Black Friday and plenty of places to park,” Gaus said.
“We’ve been planning for this day for so long,” he said. “There’s been a lot of thought and effort going into this year’s Black Friday because we do think this is going to be an incredible, successful Black Friday and holiday season for us,” he said.