The day after Thanksgiving is Black Friday, traditionally the largest retail-shopping day of the year and the kickoff for the holiday shopping season.
Local businesses are working extra hard and offering deeper sales this year on Black Friday to make up for tough economic times, and they’re fighting for shoppers’ business at a time when people are spending less.
Dismal national news doesn’t bode well for retail stores. According to a U.S. Census report discretionary retail sales, which includes home furnishings, home garden and building materials, consumer electronics and department store sales, fell 4.57 percent in October 2008 compared to the previous year.
“There’s been a tough retail situation this year,” says Jim Welsch, Belk store manager in Williamsburg’s Windsormeade Marketplace. “But people will still buy gifts, so we’re hopeful.”
Belk will open at 5 a.m. Friday and offer gift cards to the first 250 people in line to try to increase morning traffic. “We’ll have over 200 early bird specials this year, and pretty much everything is on sale,” Says Welsch. “It’s our best one-day sale for the whole year.”
At J.C. Penney at The Marquis on Route 199 in York County, Assistant Manager Shelby Storey remembers last year people were sleeping in the parking lot at 2 a.m. on Black Friday.
“I hope for everything to be as good as last year,” Storey says. The store has a 64-page circular on its after-Thanksgiving sales, and will be open from 4 a.m. until 11 p.m.
Storey still expects there will be a line this year, but maybe not people sleeping in the parking lot.
“People are a lot more frugal now,” says Kim Frances, general manager of the Williamsburg Outlet Mall. “They will be out looking for the best prices. We’ve got great discounts, but I don’t think it’s going to be the best [Black Friday] we’ve had.”
Williamsburg Outlet Mall will be open from 7 a.m. until 10 p.m. Some of their stores will offer discounts all day instead of just in the morning, which has been the tradition.
Kathie Strauss, marketing manager of Prime Outlets in Williamsburg, is pretty optimistic about what sales will look like the day after Thanksgiving. “Especially in these economic times, our value equations (customers’ perceptions of whether they get a good value in a purchase) are very important. Customers will see many more really significant sales this year,” Strauss says. “But our consumer traffic this year has been steady, and we anticipate the same traffic this year” compared to last.
Prime Outlets calls their Black Friday event the “Midnight Madness Pajama Jam,” and their stores will open at midnight and remain open until 10 p.m., with some food establishments opening at 10 p.m. Thanksgiving eve to feed hungry shoppers.
To get early bird (or late night) shoppers motivated to get out and shop at midnight, Prime Outlets will give away gift bags to the first 500 shoppers who come to the Atrium area (next to Harry and David) wearing their pajamas. The bags will have a free nightshirt from Jockey and lots of coupons from various stores.