From the heart of Norwalk to Danbury Fair, a mixed bag on Black Friday

Photo of Alexander Soule

With a view from above of a crammed Black Friday parking lot at Danbury Fair, the vehicles kept coming as noon approached on a blustery day.

Not long after, the sun broke through for an hour or so — providing one more ray of light for the 2021 shopping season for retailers.

From the heart of Norwalk to Federal Road in Brookfield, Black Friday kicked off on the Route 7 corridor with mixed results. Walmart saw only sparse attendance at its 5 a.m. opening on Main Avenue in Norwalk near the Wilton line, but a sibling store on Connecticut Avenue near Darien was far busier.

The SoNo Collection in South Norwalk was also slow to ramp up after opening at 9 a.m., but the mall’s general manager Matt Seebeck said he expects a strong weekend and holiday shopping season. The mall had only a portion of its stores open in its first holiday go-around in 2019, then the COVID-19 pandemic pushed many people to purchase gifts online last year.

“Starting two weeks before Christmas is where we see a lot of people return,” Seebeck said Friday morning. “We’re very pleased with how people have returned to in-person shopping.”

Cargo port delays and other supply chain issues may prompt some people to grab what they can get right away in stores on Black Friday and soon after, rather than take a chance of items not arriving in time closer to Christmas.

While there was no line early into the noon hour for Santa Claus at Danbury Fair, several stores had lines of shoppers waiting their turn, including Apple, Aerie, Pacsun and Pandora. And against the backdrop of its centerpiece carousel, the mall’s food court was virtually standing-room only, as shoppers grabbed whatever spot they could find to get a bite with bags stashed tableside.

Danbury Fair’s marketing chief Pam Wiles said crowds had been building steadily since 10 a.m. despite the wet and windy weather outside, with many of the vehicles arriving off Interstate 84 with New York plates.

“It wasn’t a surprise to see the parking lot as busy as it was,” Wiles said Friday during the noon hour. “People are excited to be back shopping in person. I think they want the option to have things tangible again, the holiday presentation — they love that.”

Alex.Soule@scni.com; 203-842-2545; @casoulman