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Black Friday to come a day early

Madison Mathews • Nov 17, 2012 at 9:58 PM

Post-Thanksgiving shoppers, say hello to Black Thursday.

The annual holiday shopping frenzy known as Black Friday might be a thing of the past, as stores across the country are opening earlier than ever to capitalize on the biggest retail shopping day of the year.

And due to the early start to this year’s Black Friday sales, many shoppers are formalizing their plan of attack as they set out to get the best bang for their buck.

Chelsey Bishop, of Kingsport, plans to be among those intrepid shoppers. She’s meeting up with some friends and family members around 4 a.m. at the Kingsport Pavilion to do some holiday shopping at Target.

“I’m definitely excited. I am going to pack snacks and I’m going to put on my tennis shoes and I’ve got a baby, which is who I’m shopping for, so I’m already used to not getting sleep...so I’m ready to go,” she said.

This year Target stores are opening at 9 p.m. on Thanksgiving to give shoppers an early start to the Black Friday deals.

Since Bishop doesn’t need any of the big ticket items, like a TV, she doesn’t plan on heading to the store during the big shopping rush when they open the doors the night of Thanksgiving.

“I don’t need something like a TV. I don’t need electronics, so I’m not going to camp out, but I do want some toys and I’ve been told by...professionals that I need to be there around 3 a.m.,” she said.

Bishop might not be joining the droves of shoppers at 9 p.m. at Target, but store employees are anticipating a massive surge of shopping when that hour rolls around.

With other retailers also opening well before the usual Black Friday hours — including Walmart, which is opening at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving — Kris Lowe, assistant manager of Target in Johnson City, said opening earlier this year has been dictated by consumer demand and competition with other stores.

“It’s best for the business. Number one, our other competitors out there are opening earlier than us, so it’s competitive edge. It’s making sure our customers get to go to the store they want to go to. Lots of guests want to shop at Target and we need to be open when the other retailers are,” Lowe said.

Last year was the first year Target stores opened as early as midnight on Black Friday. Lowe said those extra hours proved to be successful enough for the stores to open even earlier this year.

“It’s only three hours earlier than what we did the previous year and last year it was a great rush right at the start. We had tons and tons of sales right at the beginning, then it slowed a little before picking back up around 6 in the morning,” she said.

The shifting dynamics of Black Friday shopping also led to a change in hours for stores in The Mall at Johnson City, which is opening at midnight.

“Last year, we opened at 5 a.m. and stores had the option to open at midnight. The majority of our stores opened and the amount of consumers that came in was overwhelming,” said Marsha Hammond, the mall’s marketing director.

Hammond said the success of last year’s midnight sales were hard to argue with, so mall officials didn’t think twice when extending that to the entire mall this year.

“The consumers have demanded it. They’re here. They’re spending money. The traffic patterns have changed, so people are staying up late. Other retailers are opening at 8 o’clock Thanksgiving night, so they’re shopping all night and then coming here,” she said.

Maurices, a women’s clothing store at the mall, will be offering 30 percent off all items from midnight until 10 a.m. Friday, and manager Kim Depew is expecting a steady flow of customers all day long.

“The traffic’s going to be here, and of course, we have the merchandise to support it. Last year we ran out of merchandise. This year we will not. We’ll have plenty on the floor and plenty in the back room,” she said.

Depew said the customers she’s already talked to about next week’s sales seem to be more excited about the earlier shopping hours.

“They are actually much more excited because they’re already going to be up Thursday anyway, so they can go shop at midnight versus having to wait around until 5 o’clock that morning. They’re more fresh and excited,” she said.

Keddrain Bowen, owner of Fanatics 101 at the mall, said the first three hours of midnight Black Friday sales last year were some of the best numbers they had seen.

“I think it was very good for us. If I take away those first few hours, we would’ve been really down but those numbers helped us out after opening at midnight,” he said.

Fanatics will be offering a buy three, get one free sale all day on Black Friday.

While Bowen is looking forward to the business from the holiday sale, he said he hopes the extended hours doesn’t mean the loss of Thanksgiving in years to come.

“I just hope we don’t start doing like the other companies that are opening at 10 and earlier. Before you know it, it’d be eat your Thanksgiving dinner, then at 3 you’d be shopping,” he said.

Even though Best Buy won’t open its doors to Black Friday shoppers until midnight, consumers will most likely be camped out as early as Wednesday, as some shoppers did last year, according to home business group manager Tony Grice.

“We had a very good year last year. The performance that we got was significantly better than previous years. It did seem to work for us opening that much earlier,” he said.

Grice said he could understand how earlier shopping hours could have a negative impact on both shoppers and those who work in retail, but he said Black Friday sales help keep their store running.

“I do think the good news is the team we have here is very understanding of how important this year is, and I think the economy’s getting better. I’m sure there’s definitely a segment out there that maybe would not, but I think everybody kind of understands that it’s all hands on deck,” he said.

The Thursday edition of the Johnson City Press will feature 43 different inserts from retailers advertising 673 pages of Black Friday deals.

Press Circulation Director Phil Hensley said the Thanksgiving edition is the largest, heaviest and most popular edition printed each year.

“It’s kind of our newspaper’s kickoff to Christmas, at least in the advertising area,” he said.

Thursday’s print edition will cost $1.50.

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