JC Penney employee Wayne Solomon prepares shoes and boots for display Tuesday at the Albany Mall in preparation for customers on Black Friday.
ALBANY, Ga. — With barely a break from the annual turkey-day feast, area retailers are looking forward to lines of stalwart local shoppers on the day after Thanksgiving, dubbed Black Friday.
It’s often debated whether the name for one of the biggest shopping days of the year sprang from hoards of humanity focused on their Christmas missions or for the day most retailers begin making financial entries in black ink, signifying profits rather than losses.
Whatever the case, according to the research firm ShopperTrack, Black Friday has been among the hottest retail sales days since 2002, with only one break from that streak in 2004. Business indications point to an all-out commitment by retailers toward record profits this year.
For example, Wal-Mart, the country’s largest retailer, opens its doors in both Albany-area locations (with hired help safely to one side) at 10 p.m. Thanksgiving day — the earliest ever, says corporate sources — for shoppers seeking toys, home appliances and apparel.
After a two-hour romp of shoppers crossing items off their lists, the electronics journey cranks up at midnight. At 8 a.m. Wal-Mart’s general sale clicks in and continues through the weekend, according to company officials.
“Our customers told us they would rather stay up late to shop than get up early, so we’re going to hold special events on Thanksgiving and Black Friday,” said Duncan Mack Naughton, chief merchandising officer with Walmart U.S. “We hope to make buying decisions easier for parents working hard to give their families the Christmas they deserve.”
Naughton said that Wal-Mart would match the price of any local competitor’s printed ad for an identical product, including the day after Thanksgiving.
JC Penney at the Albany Mall will open at 4 a.m. on Black Friday, according to store officials, and is offering much of its merchandise at discounts of up to 60 or 70 percent. Included in Penney’s “over 500 deals” boasted for that day are more than 150 styles of women’s boots. As usual for such occasions, offers from JC Penney and other retailers come with a “while supplies last” disclaimer.
Penney will be giving something back to the community as well, according to Senior Vice President of Marketing Bill Gentner. On Black Friday, JC Penney will donate up to $100,000 to the Salvation Army.
As an added shopping incentive, Belk at the Albany Mall will give away “a minimum of 250” Belk Gift Cards to the first customers arriving at 3 a.m. on Friday. The cards awarded will range in value from $5 to $1,000 and can be redeemed for purchases inside the store. Customers must be at least l8 years of age to receive a card, Belk sources said.
“To help us kick off the sale, we guarantee that every Belk store will have a $1,000 Belk Gift Card winner,” said Kathryn Bufano, Belk Inc. president and chief merchandising officer.
Bufano said that “while they last,” more than 285 EarlyBird specials, available from 3 a.m. to 1 p.m., will “help make this the best after-Thanksgiving sale ever.”
Sears, also at the mall, will open at 4 a.m. Friday, according to manager George Galligan and is partnering with Moe’s Southwest Grill for a special promotion.
“Moe’s will have coffee and chips, queso and soup. They have little meals for $5,” Galligan said.
Galligan said that Sears has more than 500 early-bird items from 4 a.m. till 1 p.m on Friday, plus a Sears “Real Deal” coupon book.
The Sears after-Thanksgiving sale will continue on Saturday, according to Galligan, beginning at 7 a.m. with additional cashiers on duty throughout the event.
Employees of Books-a-Million may sleep a little later on Black Friday than some other mall employees, dropping by to open at a laid-back 6 a.m., according to store manager Chris Brown.
While there are plenty of great deals at BAM, the big draw this year for local readers is the Nook Tablet by Barnes and Nobles, which is trying to defeat Amazon’s Kindle going head-to-head.
“E-readers are flying out the door right now,” Brown said, “and the Nook has it all over the Kindle. It has a faster processor and more memory for software operation, which means faster Web browsing and magazine page flipping.”
Dillard’s at the Albany Mall will open at 7 a.m. on Black Friday, according store manager Josh Hinson. At press time, no details were available about Dillard’s after-Thanksgiving sale.
Toys R Us may be the most ambitious of all the area retailers in terms of getting an early start. According to company spokesman Bob Freedland, the toy store will conduct its sale for 26 hours straight — from 9 p.m. Thanksgiving day until 11 p.m. the following day.
The sale will be launched in two waves, Freedland said, the first of which will be conducted from the store’s 9 p.m. opening until 1 p.m. on Friday. During that time, shoppers will receive a free $50 Toys R Us gift card with the purchase of an iPod Apple Touch (while supplies last). Also offered is 50 percent off the Leapfrog Leapster 2 or My Baby Alive
The second wave at Toys R Us begins at 5 a.m. on Friday and runs until 1 p.m., Freedland said. While supplies last, shoppers may purchase for 50 percent off either the Tonka Bounceback Racer or the Leapfrog Alphabet Pal.
Kmart on Dawson Road will open for business from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Thanksgiving day, in keeping with a “distinct 20-year tradition,” according to corporate sources. On Black Friday, the retailer will be open from 5 a.m. until 11 p.m.