No rush to shop in neighborhoods

Secret tip for crowd-skittish shoppers next year: For San Francisco and Peninsula neighborhood shopping districts, Black Friday lacks bustle.

While hyper shoppers packed San Francisco’s downtown, malls and electronics big-box stores early Friday morning, a quieter experience was the order of the day in downtown Burlingame and San Francisco’s Hayes Valley and Castro neighborhoods. With no special sales and few extended-hours shops, these boutique environments had their customers, but in far fewer numbers than the packed Union Square and mall arenas.

“We just really love to patronize local merchants,” said Andrea Rogers, a Southern Californian visiting her daughter Nora Branning in Hayes Valley. “We’re window-shopping, but if we saw something we like a lot, we’d get it fora gift.”

The family found that several stores in the neighborhood were not even open at 11 a.m. — a surprise for Branning, who thought they’d have opened earlier for the so-called busiest shopping day of the year. Some 137 million shoppers were expected to hit the stores this weekend, according to the National Retail Federation.

Branning enjoys shopping in her neighborhood because Hayes Valley stocks a lot of local, independent designer clothes. The search for unique items drives boutique shoppers in general, several store owners said.

“We get a more discerning, specialty type of shopper,” not as driven by low prices, said Lorn Dittfeld, owner of houseware shop Propeller.

The store sees bigger crowds the last couple of weekends before Christmas than it does Black Friday, Dittfeld said. He keeps extended hours two weeks before Christmas, and holds off on store sales until after the holidays.

There’s another reason that neighborhood retail strips see less volume on Black Friday, Lavish sales associate Kristy Shin said. Some of the neighborhood residents are traveling, and others are at the malls.

The sales they do make are quite different from big-box must-haves. Shin said JellyCat super-soft stuffed animals and handmade baby rattles are big sellers, while Dittfeld’s big sellers so far are a golden-colored piggy bank cast from a real piglet, a decorative on-off switch in a Lucite box that can be set to turn on and off any lamp remotely, tea cups set on wine stems and vases and trays by artist Derek Chen.

The Castro lured destination shoppers Friday specifically seeking The City shopping experience without the Union Square bustle, such as Jay Pierce of Merced. Toting a L’Occitane shopping bag, he said he’s not into crowds, but couldn’t resist a San Francisco trip while visiting family in Walnut Creek.

kwilliamson@examiner.com

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