Saving some green on Black Friday

Newport-Mesa's major shopping centers and independent retailers are hoping the economic winter that set in during the recession will continue its slow thaw on Black Friday.

Optimism abounded in pre-Thanksgiving interviews.

"It has been a very good year at South Coast Plaza," said Debra Gunn Downing, the center's executive director of marketing. "It's exceeding our expectations."

South Coast Plaza expects more than 350,000 shoppers from Friday to Sunday.

The story is similar at Fashion Island, much of which has been remodeled in time for the biggest shopping season of the year.

"We have a very good group of people coming to us — customers that we know and customers that we don't know," said Kim Natta, store manager at Bloomingdale's at Fashion Island.

And there are specials — even at the high end.

Neiman Marcus at Fashion Island is offering shoppers a $50 gift card when they spend $100 or more from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday.

Stores at Fashion Island will also be extending their hours. Macy's will open the earliest, at 4 a.m., followed by Urban Outfitters, Dick's Sporting Goods and other stores at 5 a.m.

Many shoppers might opt to support local businesses. American Express is promoting "Small Business Saturday" between Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Harper's in Corona del Mar is promoting Black Friday shopping with a sale. Most of the fashions there sell for less than $100, but from Friday to Sunday, shoppers can subtract an additional 20%.

"People are going to be able to get great deals," said owner Erica Thomas. "I feel like people are still very conservative, and I think they're going to be shopping in stores like mine because we are (at a) lower price point."

The staff at Our Gang's General Store, the iconic toyshop on Balboa Island, believes customer loyalty and 36 years in business will conquer still-lingering economic woes.

"I feel very optimistic, actually," said owner Jennifer Johnston. "We have a great local following, and we have a lot of tourists in town right now. Everyone is always so happy to be in Newport Beach."

Like any business, Johnston said, she's felt the slow economy, but her customers see to it that they don't leave the island.

"(Customers) say, 'Please tell me you're going to stay,'" Johnston said. "I assure them and say, 'Absolutely. We're here forever.'"

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