Retailers hope Black Friday brightens gloomy economy

Do you plan to do some holiday shopping on Friday?

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■ Best Buy, 5 a.m.

■ Coastland Center: Dillard’s, Macy’s, JC Penney, 4 a.m.; Sears, 5 a.m.; Old Navy, 5 a.m.

■ Coconut Point, 8 a.m.

■ Gulf Coast Town Center, 7 a.m.

■ Kohls, 4 a.m.

■ Miromar Outlets, midnight

■ Target, 6 a.m.

■ Toy R Us, 5 a.m.

■ Wal-Mart, 5 a.m.

— Retailers are looking eagerly to Friday morning as a sort of salvation from one of the bleakest shopping environments in memory.

Black Friday, an American tradition of jump-starting the holiday shopping season, is also when stores get one of their biggest boosts in traffic and sales, hopefully pulling their balance sheets out of the red and into the black.

Consumer confidence has been crippled this year, but a continued decline in gas prices and doorbuster deals could entice shoppers to dig deeper in their wallets than they may have thought possible even a month ago, said David Pullum, store manager in training at the Kmart at 4383 U.S. 41 N.

“It has changed dramatically this year,” Pullum said of the sales outlook. “We are in hopes that we will pull our fair share and that’s all I can tell you. ... I do feel (parents) will shop and take care of their kids.”

Kmart, which will open at 6 a.m. Friday, will dangle discounts on LCD TV’s for early birds and entice them further with specials on toys and other products throughout the store.

This year, however, Kmart has reduced its electronics inventory expecting gift-buyers to turn toward needs instead of wants, Pullum said.

The store is also making room for long lines at the layaway counter. Customers whose carts do not include Christmas merchandise, such as trees and ornaments, still have time to spread out payments before Christmas Day.

Black Friday could bring in three times a typical day of sales dollars, he said. And traffic jumps, too.

“It all escalates,” Pullum said, “which is what we’re looking forward to.”

This year, though, the Black Friday weekend may be slower than normal.

A survey for the National Retail Federation found the number of people who said they may shop Friday, Saturday and Sunday fell 5 percent to 128 million from 135 million last year.

About 49 million people said they would definitely hit the stores while another 79 million said their plans depend on specific weekend deals.

The retail association also expects a smaller than usual bump in sales, just 2.2 percent this year to $470.4 billion. That’s the smallest growth since 2002, when holiday sales rose 1.3 percent.

But still there will be those who linger in lines before dawn.

Several interviewed commented that Best Buy, Target and Wal-Mart will be the big draws. And some shop owners plan to take advantage of those retailers’ customers.

Jason Swinford, owner of Planet Smoothie at 6420 Naples Blvd. in North Naples, hopes to lure thirsty Best Buy customers with discounts on his shop’s drinks.

“We know they are in a rush and we’re just a pit stop,” he said.

That’s a tactical change from last year when Swinford made 500 smoothies to give to customers in line at Best Buy. That turned out to be one big mistake, Swinford said.

Golf Galaxy, which opened on Naples Boulevard earlier this month, also hopes for a ride on Best Buy’s coattails. The Naples store will be one of a few in the chain opening at 6 a.m.

“Since we’re so close Best Buy we’re hoping to get a little spill over,” said Anthony Capecci, general sales manager.

Black Friday is the store’s second busiest day behind the day before Father’s Day, he said, and along with its grand opening deals, the store will offer specials such as a free shoe bag valued at $15 with any shoe purchase.

He said the only consistent item shoppers will seek is a bargain.

“With the climate of the economy, everyone’s looking for a deal,” he said.

One shop, recognizing it can’t compete with the stores that open at dawn, will keep its regular hours but will have plenty of coupons on hand.

“We have so many coupons for our customers, for members and nonmembers,” said Susan Astley, Barnes & Noble’s merchandising manager. “We do expect less traffic because of the economics. But business has been picking up as of this past week as people are getting ready for the holidays.”

This year, the bookseller hopes to make shopping a little easier. They’ve rearranged the store so that the customer service counter is the first thing shoppers see when they walk through the doors.

For shoppers who prefer to avoid this weekend’s crowds, the National Retail Federation found that about 84 percent of retailers will launch online promotions on so-called Cyber Monday, the Monday after Black Friday.

That’s Dec. 1 this year.

© 2008 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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