Merchants will be getting an earlier start on Black Friday next week. Brenda Magyar-Dozier, manager of Victoria’s Secret, is opening the women-oriented business earlier than last year when she said customers already were lined up past the food court at 5 a.m. Some stores will be open on Thanksgiving Day as the 4 1/2-week rush to Christmas gets fully under way. (Nov. 16, 2012)
ALBANY, Ga. — The growth of the budget deficit may not have slowed, but neither has the post-Thanksgiving buying spree known as Black Friday. Last year, retailers set new records, not only with total sales and foot traffic, but in how early the doors came open for their customers.
According to ShopperTrak, the largest provider of retail and mall foot-traffic counting services, Black Friday sales for 2011 increased 6.6 percent over the same day in 2010 — and set a new retail sales record of $11.4 billion.
Considering retailers rely on sales between Thanksgiving and Christmas to make up to 20 percent of their annual take, consumers are witnessing a kind of "accessibility creep," with stores and shops opening ever earlier to get the jump on customers at-large.
Toys R Us, near the Albany Mall, reports a planned opening time of 8 p.m. Thanksgiving Day — an hour earlier than last year. Walmart on Ledo Road will be open 24/7 through the holidays, including Black Friday. In 2011, the retail giant closed on Thanksgiving until 10 p.m.
Likewise, in 2011 many Albany Mall shops waited until 5 or 6 a.m. on Friday before getting into the game. Now, many have come together as a group and upped the early ante to the stroke of midnight.
"The business is definitely there to open at midnight," said Brenda Magyar-Dozier, manager of Victoria's Secret. "Last year when we opened the doors at 5 a.m., the line was at the front door going past the food court just for our store."
According to Magyar-Dozier, she and her staff expect a tremendous influx on Black Friday, many of them lured by the store's traditional tote bag of beauty items.
"It's filled with bling and when you spend $65, it's yours for free," Magyar-Dozier said."It's all about bling this year."
Reeds Jewelers at the Mall will wait until 6 a.m. the day after Thanksgiving to join the fray, according to Richard Bolin, store manager. Bolin said one the store's hottest new items is an exclusive "hearts and arrows" diamond.
"Store traffic is building up as we speak," Bolin said. "We really have the tools to help the consumer this year, with new credit options and a layaway program. The layaway is huge for us."
Like Bolin, Joyce Luke, manager of Southern Pastimes (formerly University Gifts) will close her store until 6 a.m. Friday, mostly because of their proximity to the Mall's main front door.
"The mall doesn't open till 6 a.m.," Luke said, "but (the Mall) puts 200 free (goody) bags right out front on Thanksgiving day. The customers pick up their bags and filter right on in."
Luke said Southern Pastimes does a huge trade in university-oriented merchandise, such as tee shirts, hats and decals.
"We have all the bigger SEC teams — Georgia, Florida, Alabama. We even still have Auburn."
Bath and Body manager Jennifer Franchia gives away a tote bag valued at $112 for $20 with a $40 minimum purchase, she said. The store will be in there swinging at midnight on the dot — six hours earlier than last year.
"It's absolutely worth it," Franchia said. "We plan to catch the overflow of people who shop at Walmart and Target. Plus, it makes things nicer for the people who shop during normal business hours because the early people will be out of the way."
Kirkland's at the Mall will open at 5 a.m., store manager Wanda Heath said.
"Blankets and wraps will most likely be on sale," Heath said, "and our hurricane-style candle holders. Christmas things are on sale right now for 25 percent off, so you can expect door-busters on all our Christmas things.