Merchants see brisk Black Friday

Photo by Jeff Baughan David Boone of Hornor and Harrison stands in front of a clothing display from Patagonia shortly before opening for a day of Black Friday specials.

PARKERSBURG — Black Friday sales started Thanksgiving afternoon.

The best way to work off the Thanksgiving gluttony was to walk it off during shopping; at least that’s what major retailers hoped.

For the small business owner, Black Friday specials began Friday.

Keith McClung of Crown Florals in Parkersburg said the Black Friday shopping had “been brisk so far. When we got here we had a parking lot full of people wanting in so we opened early.”

“We have the ‘turkey first’ crowd who refuse to buy anything before Thanksgiving,” McClung said. “Well, it’s after Thanksgiving and they were out today.”

Photo by Jeff Baughan Keith McClung of Crown Florals stands in the middle of his Christmas shop, which is wall-to-wall Christmas trees, ornaments, foods and displays for Black Friday.

McClung and Tina Salmans at Mulberry Lane in Parkersburg said “customers are buying earlier every year. Our shopping season at Mulberry Lane actually starts the first part of November with the Christmas Preview Sale.”

Forty decorated Christmas trees are throughout Mulberry Lane, according to Salmans, who said her husband decorated them all.

“Everywhere you turn, it’s something Christmas,” she said. “It can get a bit overwhelming at times; just everywhere Christmas.”

David Boone of Honor and Harrison said being an upper-scale clothing store “people use the website to see what we have and then come in to buy. Clothing is different than buying electronics online with suits and sport coats. People like to feel the material, see the colors for themselves. Plus we alter in-store. You buy online and if it doesn’t fit, you have to find someone to alter for you. With clothes, it’s all about the fit.”

Boone said sales of coats and sweaters have already been brisk for the season “because it’s been cold so early.”

Photo by Jeff Baughan Tina Salmans, left, and daughter, Kate, stand among Christmas displays and home decor at Mulberry Lane Friday morning on the first day of the Christmas shopping season.

“Sport coats have been on fire more than suits,” he said. “A sport coat allows you not to be overdressed, but dressed enough.”

Boone said for women, “fashionable outerwear has being doing well and Ronaldo bracelets — in gold or silver — have sold well. The bracelets are different but each one tells a story. It’s a gift but each has a meaning behind it.”

The Luna & Danni bracelets at Mulberry Lane are similar in each has a story behind the design “and Vera Bradley always does well but a lot of customers coming in early know the decorative ornaments are the usually the first off the shelves and we have limited quantities and when they’re gone, they’re gone.”

McClung said Crown Florals “began getting the store ready for Christmas in October and began working “from the back rooms forward. We live Christmas 12 months a year and we’ll start buying for Christmas of 2019 in January of 2019.”

A group of four women walk in, which McClung said can be typical, and start looking around. “What a lot of people don’t realize is most of the back stock is already gone,” he said. “People are buying the moment it hits the floor.

“Public demand requires it go up earlier because they want it up earlier,” he said. “A lot of it is due to the fact you can leave up a lot of the decorations after Christmas with the snowmen, snow scenes and such.

“Last year was the largest inventory we’ve had for Christmas and it was depleted by the first week of the Christmas shopping season.”

All agreed the flavor of a locally owned small business with customer service attracts customers.

“The small business works harder to attract and keep the clientele,” said Salmans. “The customer is going to find free samples of food and drink while they browse and they’re all going to have free gift wrap. They do things to set themselves apart from the big box store.”

She gave an example.

“We have gift crates which are personally customized to the customer,” she said. “They’re made in house with area products and mostly feature West Virginia food and wine producers.”

“We want to make a visit here an experience,” McClung said. “We want it to be a vintage Christmas experience with the Christmas decor, like I had when I was a kid. People still want that personal experience with the decorations, the ribbons, the special wrapped packages.

“They want the shop which is wall to wall Christmas, not just a store where it is a few aisles,” he said. “As a gift shop, people are surprised at all the Christmas decor but there are Cheryl’s Cookies, gourmet food products and free gift wrap.

“Give the customer a great experience with more than they expect and even if you are off the beaten path,” said McClung, “once they find you, they come back.”