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Holiday shoppers get head start
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About 150 shoppers waiting for Belk to open at midnight Thursday were lined up from Belk’s entrance to the doors of the JC’s 5-Star Outlet at Liberty Fair Mall. A Belk official said Black Friday sales this year were “much better” than last year due to the company’s decision to open so early. (Bulletin photos by Mike Wray)
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Sunday, November 25, 2012

By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer

Many local shoppers got a jump on their Christmas buying before their Thanksgiving turkey had time to cool.

Retailers generally consider the day after Thanksgiving — known as “Black Friday” — to be the official kickoff of the Christmas shopping season. Yet both Kmart and Walmart opened Thursday, when most other stores were closed, with sales that lured throngs of customers.

Both stores were full of shoppers on Friday, but Kmart Assistant Manager Karen Blankenship and Walmart Assistant Manager Lauren Ratliff said they thought crowds Thursday night were larger.

Two hours before Belk opened at midnight on Thursday, about 150 people were waiting in line, according to Store Manager Bill Foley. Some had gotten there as early as 7:30 p.m., he noted.

The department store saw steady crowds all day Friday, and there were long lines at each cash register, Foley said. He described the scene inside as “perfect crazy,” adding that he “couldn’t complain” because of high sales.

Black Friday sales at Belk this year were “much better” than last year due to the company’s decision to open so early, he said.

Some merchants said they think some people’s decision to shop on Thursday reduced crowds in their stores on Friday.

“I guess people just gave out,” tired from their Thanksgiving shopping, said Brenda Patterson, assistant manager at Roses on Commonwealth Boulevard. She said her store was busy on Friday, “but not as busy as last year.”

Patterson said she hoped business would improve on Saturday, and it seems that was the case. Judy Smith, store manager, said shortly before 5:30 p.m. Saturday that business had been good that day — busy all day, but spread out. It was about on par with last year, she said.

At JC’s 5-Star Outlet, the former JCPenney Outlet Store at Liberty Fair Mall, 25 to 30 people were outside waiting in line when the store opened at 3:30 a.m., according to Store Manager Carol Morris.

Overall, though, Friday was “a so-so day, nothing spectacular,” Morris said. She guessed it was because people “went to those (sales at other stores on Thursday), got tired and went home.”

However, “Black Friday is not necessarily a measure of how good it’s going to be” throughout the season, she said.

Morris is optimistic that the outlet will see more customers as the Christmas season goes forward.

“You have to be optimistic to work in retail,” she said.

Business on Friday increased steadily at maurices, a women’s fashion store in the mall, as the day progressed, said Store Manager Kelly Flippin.

But at Suit City in the mall, business was “OK, not great,” said a manager who declined to fully identify himself.

At his store on Thanksgiving weekend, he said, business usually is better on Saturday than on Friday. Late Saturday afternoon, he said sales were “good” that day.

The manager said he thinks customers prefer to shop at “big stores,” such as Walmart, on Black Friday in search of bargains.

He said, however, bargain-seekers usually can save more on Christmas Eve and in the days right after Christmas than on Thanksgiving weekend.

Kurt Merchant, owner of Jacques Jewelers at the mall, also said larger stores generally do better on Black Friday than “boutique stores” such as his.

“Our business goes on a steady incline” in the days leading to Christmas, and Dec. 23-24 are extremely busy, Merchant said.

Doug and Sandra Carter of Callands, who run a craft kiosk across from Chick-Fil-A at the mall each Christmas season, said their Black Friday business was a little slower than it was last year.

“I think people are not sure what’s going to happen” in terms of how much in taxes they will have to pay next year, so they are hesitant to spend their money right now, Doug Carter said.

His wife said they are selling about the same number of items as in past years but people are buying less-expensive items.

Beth Toms of Martinsville said she found good buys on Friday at the mall, especially in clothing on sale.

Martinsville newcomer Angeline Godwin is hopeful that area stores will see a strong holiday season because people with whom she has talked “say they’re going to try to buy as much as they can locally” this year.

Godwin, the new president of Patrick Henry Community College, was in the crowd at the mall Friday. She was not necessarily there to buy anything.

“I just like to walk around in the hustle and bustle,” she said, laughing. “It kicks off the holiday spirit.”

Cindy Chitwood thinks she will not buy much at all this holiday season.

An area native, Chitwood now lives in Wilmington, N.C., and was visiting her relatives here Friday. She went to the mall to buy some boots she needs now.

Chitwood said she usually hits the stores “hot and heavy” on Black Friday, but just to buy personal items. She and her family quit giving gifts long ago, she said.

Gifts are “not what Christmas is all about,” Chitwood said, adding that the holiday has become “too commercial.”

But she found what she considered to be bargains at the mall, she said.

 

 
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