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Retailers expecting large Friday turnout

Photo by Casey Dixon

Photo by Casey Dixon

ALBANY -- Despite a lagging economy that's tightening the wallets of families in Albany, retailers in the area say they expect a good response to "Black Friday."

"We are anticipating a big turnout," said Derrell Robinson, store manager of Kmart on Dawson Road. "People are finding their dollars are going further in discount stores. All year long our sales have been up.

"We are certainly anticipating customers to come out."

Kmart has been offering a layaway option for their customers, which they say has been a big advantage to business flow. In addition, the retailer has a program called "Shop Your Way Rewards," which allows for customers to take advantage of discounts when a cashier swipes their card.

"We've seen a lot of new customers come in and sign up for it," Robinson said.

Kmart, which is calling its shopping event "Blue Friday," will be open from 6 a.m.-11 p.m. It will also be open today from 7 a.m.-9 p.m.

Friedman's Clothing on North Westover Boulevard has opted to maintain its normal hours of 10 a.m.-6:30 p.m. Even though the store is opening later than some of its competitors, the store's owner expects to have a good Friday.

"We noticed in September that sales were down, but this month things have been going up," said Bruce Bitterman. "We are looking for a good one.

"We think we hit the bottom a couple of months ago, and it has started going up. I feel optimistic about it."

The edge Friedman's Clothing has over its competitors is customer service, Bitterman said.

"We have always been a values-oriented store," he explained. "We give value and service."

The J.C. Penney outlet in the Albany Mall plans to open at 4 a.m. Friday. In order to make for a less intense start to the day, store officials have opted for a "soft opening" at 3:30 a.m.

"Given the nature of how customers have been responsive, we (decided) to do a soft opening," explained Joseph Iles, the store's manager. "In anticipation, people will be expecting us to be open at 4 a.m. If the doors are already open, I think it will lessen anxiety."

Albany has been hit hard by the economic doldrums. But local J.C. Penney officials are hopeful they will fare well this holiday shopping season.

"Sales have been soft," Iles said. "Economists say this holiday season could be easier than what we expect. Customers are still spending money, but people are being more selective."

Improving the customer service perspective is going to make a big difference in how all the retailers, not just J.C. Penney, do during the holidays, Iles said.

"I think if all the retailers have the proper items at the proper prices, they are going to win the battle," he said. "We (J.C. Penney) anticipate a good response. We have worked all year to improve customer service."

J.C. Penney will be open until 11 p.m. The retailer is expected to have door-buster items and sales occurring throughout the day.

"All of us are gearing up," Iles said. "We are really going to set the tone for the holiday season."

Target, located on Dawson Road, has also been bracing for this year's shopping season. The store actually found itself calling in additional help due to the increase in activity over the last few days, said Store Team Leader Lorenzo Keaton.

"Right now, sales are good," he said. "(Friday) should be busy. We think it will be busier than last year."

In order to keep its word on offering low prices to customers, Target has recently been working to match the prices of competitors that ask for less for the same products.

"It's really about driving great bargains and giving what our customers want," Keaton said. "Sales have been really good. If the trend continues, we will have a fantastic day (on Friday)."

The store will be open Friday from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Dillards at the Albany Mall will open at 8 a.m. Friday. Sears and Belk, also at the Mall, will open at 4 a.m. Toys 'R' Us is opening at midnight, and Kohl's is opening at 4 a.m. Early-bird sales for Wal-Mart start at 5 a.m.