Local shoppers go in search of Black Friday savings

VIENNA – Unlike in the past, this year’s Black Friday event seemed tame as retailers gave customers two days to capture coveted items at bargain prices.

“This year went very well and smoothly,” said Katrina Stephens, marketing director with Grand Central Mall. “The feeling of the day seems to have changed; I don’t get the whole feeling that people are rushing this year.”

Beginning Thursday evening, thousands of people filled the mall and surrounding stores as retailers extended the annual Black Friday sales to Thanksgiving Day, despite opposition from some people.

“The response we have received has been positive,” said Michael Gibson, supervisor for the J.C. Penney store in the Grand Central Mall. “We opened at 8 p.m. (Thursday) and shoppers did not stop all day.”

J.C. Penney was one of roughly 50 stores and restaurants in and connected with the mall, including Sears, Belk, Elder Beerman, Victoria’s Secret and American Eagle, that opened at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving to join other retailers, including Wal-Mart and Kmart.

Prior to the holiday, people took to social media to voice their opposition to the earlier shopping hours with a number of Facebook pages having been started. One page called “Say No To Shopping on Thanksgiving” asked consumers to stay home on the holiday with their families instead of shop.

Despite the people who spoke out against shopping on the holiday, hundreds of people filled the Grand Central Mall and opened stores, which Stephens said she believes helped keep the usual Black Friday problems at bay.

“I have spoken to a number of our store managers and several have told me they feel like the usual Black Friday madness has been spread out and calmed down,” Stephens said. “The earlier opening has definitely mixed things up for us at the mall because we had no idea what to expect, so we just worked with our retailers to allow them to do what they had planned.”

Not only did the longer hours allow for shoppers to take their time looking for the perfect gift at the right price, it also appeared to help keep local law enforcement less busy.

“We usually have a few calls from retailers to help with unruly customers or shoplifters and a few accidents but (Friday) was quiet,” said Sgt. Greg Collins with the Parkersburg Police Department. “We have been very pleased with the day.”

A dispatcher with the Vienna Police Department said their officers did not receive any calls from stores in the mall or other locations looking for help with upset shoppers.

“Retailers were very keen this year,” said Stephens. “Because of the hours they chose to be open and the way they organized their sales, it allowed people to be more relaxed than in years past, which helped everyone.”

An estimated 147 million shoppers were expected to hit the stores this weekend across the country, according to the industry trade group the National Retail Federation.

Overall, The National Retail Federation expects retail sales to be up 3.9 percent to $602.1 billion during the last two months of the year. That’s greater than last year’s 3.5 per cent growth, but below the 6 percent pace seen before the recession.

Locally owned stores are expecting a boost today from the national Small Business Saturday event.

Today small businesses across the country will participate in the event created to encourage people to make an impact on the local economy and community by shopping locally.

“We were very busy (Friday), which we attribute to the nice weather that encouraged people to get out of their homes and shop,” said Debbie Cline, co-owner of Twisted Sisters in downtown Marietta. “We were thrilled with the Friday sales and hope the weather cooperates again so more people will come out (today).”