NEW YORK -- While millions of shoppers battle their way through hysterical crowds to save a buck at stores like Walmart and Target on Black Friday, some who have more cash to spend are enjoying the more refined side of the annual weekend of shopping mania.
They're partaking in Bergdorf Goodman's Black Friday sale. Yes, Fifth Avenue's storied monument of luxury holds a special event on a day known for mass discounts and wild fights for merchandise. And it's nothing like the frenzies across the country, which started on Thanksgiving night. While some battled for Barbie dolls, brawled over baby clothes or got zapped with a stun gun, those who can afford to shop at Bergdorf's waited until morning.
The luxury department store is calm before its 8 a.m. opening, prepping for a 12-hour day. A few shoppers wait outside each of the many revolving-door entrances. There are no barricades. No lines. No tent cities. No cheering. No fanfare. Just employees waiting patiently inside and customers waiting patiently outside. When it's time, the greeters wave them in and the shopping begins.
One worker chuckles and reports to his colleagues that there were about 20 shoppers who came in through his door. Another replies that seven customers entered on his side. It takes a couple of seconds to get the waiting customers into the store, as smiling employees hand out $50 gift cards to be redeemed on the beauty products. In the jewelry area, every room glistens under the lights.
A holiday display of coats inside Bergdorf Goodman on Black Friday. Most merchandise isn't on sale, even today.
The Black Friday sales here aren't like the ones from the lower reaches of retail -- Bergdorf is simply too exclusive for that. Where Gap flaunts 50 percent off everything in the store, Bergdorf just offers an extra 20 percent off already marked-down clothes, shoes and handbags on the fifth floor. Some designer sportswear is on sale at 40 percent off, too. Though there are some deeply discounted items at Bergdorf on Friday, it manages to retain its exclusive feel.
That exclusivity is what attracts people to Bergdorf's extravagant halls. Founded in 1899 and now owned by Neiman Marcus Group, the department store sells all sorts of luxury goods: clothes, shoes, handbags, jewelry, housewares and more. It has only two locations, the main store and a men's store right across the street on Fifth Avenue, near the southeast corner of Central Park.
Many shoppers head downstairs to the beauty floor, where there are a wide array of branded kiosks. Bergdorf offers plenty of Black Friday perks down here: complimentary brow lessons from Bobbi Brown, depuffing facials from Amore Pacific and reflexology hand massages from La Prairie.
Others head up to the fifth floor, which features contemporary designer goods. The racks are filled with brands like Helmut Lang, Rag & Bone and Phillip Lim. There are $1,200 Tamara Mellon dresses, $200 tops from Theory and $500 sweaters from Elie Tahari all marked down. The shoppers quietly look through the garments, seeking the standouts. They find plenty and bring their hauls to nearby workers who ring up the purchases.
On the fifth floor of Bergdorf Goodman, the sales floor is filled with marked-down merchandise from contemporary designers.
A little less than an hour after opening, the sales floor gets busier. But it's not raucous and nobody's acting frantic. The loudest noise comes from the racks themselves, squeaking sharply each time someone slides over a hanger. Then, a supervisor's voice cuts through the room. "I hate to be the bearer of bad news," he tells a pair of his employees chatting softly near one of the racks, "but less conversation, more work." Everything remains tidy, employees darting around to make sure the area remains pristine. It's unclear how big of an event this is for Bergdorf -- a company representative did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Though it's Black Friday, this is still where the affluent go to spend thousands and thousands of dollars on clothes. The vast majority of merchandise in the store remains at full price, maintaining its luxe integrity. These areas churn onward, glitzy money-making machines that are too swank for discounts.
On the second floor, women gleefully try on red-soled Christian Louboutin heels, none of which cost less than $675. And on the ground floor, surrounded by staggeringly pricey handbags from the likes of Saint Laurent and Givenchy, a saleswoman sees one of her regulars. "Nancy!" she exclaims, eager to unveil her latest wares. "It just came in."