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Malls Roll Out the Red Carpet for Black Friday

Amid the cornucopia of declining holiday numbers — from the number gifts shoppers will buy to how much they will spend — there’s one indicator that's going up: the number of people planning to hit the mall this Black Friday. And mall operators are ready for them with all kinds of amenities to lure shoppers.

PKeleher

“Given the current state of the economy the malls will be pulling out all stops in order to get people shopping and make their experiences as enjoyable and seamless as possible,” said Erin Hershkowitz, senior media-relations specialist at the International Council of Shopping Centers.

Twenty-six percent of consumers surveyed by Consumer Reports said they plan to hit the mall this Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, compared with 21 percent who shopped on Black Friday last year, as cost-conscious consumers anticipate some pretty sweet Black Friday deals.

Meanwhile, 74 percent of mall operators said they plan to offer amenities such as free gift wrapping, valet parking and gift cards, according to an ICSC survey.

At the Mockingbird Station shopping center in Dallas, they’re offering free gift wrapping from a local stationery shop as well as restaurant discounts, free outdoor movies and live music.

The outdoor Holiday Shops at Bryant Park in New York are offering free gift wrapping from the domestic diva herself, Martha Stewart. And, there’s free ice skating at the pond if you BYOS (bring your own skates).

The nation’s largest mall operator, Simon Property Group, is offering a slew of promotions at its malls, including free holiday movies on its in-mall digital network, free eco-friendly tote bags and rejuvenation stations, which are soft-seating lounges where shoppers can kick back with free coffee and other beverages as well as chair massages.

If you need a nap, not coffee, you’re in luck: the Specialty Sleep Association has set up “nap centers” at several bed retailers across the country, encouraging exhausted early birds to take a 15-minute test nap on one of their products.

It will be a green Black Friday at the Mall of America in Minneapolis: Home magazine has built a 3,000-square foot craftsman-style house to showcase green building materials and décor. The first 250 shoppers to tour the house will receive a gift bag with a Mall of America gift card and green products. One bag will also include the keys to a 2009 People 150 Scooter, valued at more than $3,000. There will also be giveaways including a water-park getaway and an American Girl celebration package. And, shoppers at the mall on Black Friday will get two free passes to the Nickelodeon Universe, an amusement park in the middle of the mall.

It’s also going to be a green Christmas at CBL properties: The mall chain is giving away five Smart Cars this holiday season, including one on Black Friday. They’re also handing out a million free coupon books, offering gas cards to shoppers who buy gift cards and holding a drawing for a trip for four to Mexico.

This is the first time CBL is doing a nationwide promotion, instead of letting each mall do their own. Knowing the season was going to be tough, CBL gathered a “holiday task force” that started meeting in February to drum up ways to offer incentives for shoppers. They also partnered with Coca-Cola to help fund their promotional efforts.

Shoppers who don’t want to take their chances on winning a Black Friday giveaway can buy a “Black Friday Escape Package” for the Gardens Mall and PGA National Resort in Palm Beach. The two-night escape costs $239 a person and includes accommodations, a $100 gift card for use at the mall, a 20 percent discount at the spa and complimentary round-trip transportation to and from the mall. A similar one-night package is available for $269 and includes a $50 gift card.

The upscale Tysons Galleria in the D.C. metro area is hoping to lure shoppers with the charm of a white Christmas: Using special effects, they’ll make it snow once every hour for 3 to 5 minutes, starting on Black Friday.

The Ala Moana Center in Honolulu is saying Aloha! to its Black Friday shoppers with roaming concierges, holiday gift-idea seminars and the piece de resistance in mall circles: A chance to win a free parking spot for one year, plus $500 to spend at the mall!

Now that’s what I call rolling out the red carpet.

This spot is reserved, honey!

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Questions? Comments? retaildetail@cnbc.com

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