Thursday, November 23, 2006


If you think your commute to the mall today is far, try traveling more than 4,000 miles.

Marie-Pierre Lalande, an Air France flight attendant and mother of three, boarded a plane to Atlanta from Paris and arrived yesterday just in time for one of America’s busiest shopping days.

Seems like quite a journey, but to some foreigners — it’s a bargain.

“These very American brands — in France, they cost a fortune,” Mrs. Lalande said.

She is one of a growing number of foreign tourists heading to the U.S. to jump on the Black Friday bandwagon.

Wally Brewster, a spokesman for General Growth Properties Inc., which operates more than 200 malls across the country, said more tourists are willing to travel longer distances for items that are unavailable abroad.

“Tourists are finding great value over here since we have items that they cannot get, and it’s way more expensive to import them over there,” Mr. Brewster said.

Visitors usually flock to metropolitan areas, such as Chicago, Los Angeles and New York, and also to major border cities, such as San Antonio, which draws Mexican nationals to its North Star Mall.

Mr. Brewster said Japanese jet-setters fly to Honolulu’s Ala Moana shopping center for high-end fashion retailers like Dior, Fendi, Louis Vuitton and Hermes.

In Miami, tourists from Latin America, Mexico, Brazil and the Caribbean head to the Dolphin Mall.

“They want to see the madness of people going to the mall at 5 a.m. to go shopping because that usually doesn’t happen in any other country,” said Lucia Plazas, a marketing specialist for Taubman Centers’ Dolphin Mall.

Responding to the growing trend, Chelsea Property Group, a unit of mall developer Simon Property Group, sent a team abroad this year just to market Black Friday to tour operators.

Mrs. Lalande, who learned about Black Friday from her brother who lives stateside, said she plans to target apparel retailers Polo Ralph Lauren and Timberland and will buy an Eastpak schoolbag for her 12-year-old daughter, Marie.

“For teenagers going to school, it’s either that or death.”

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