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Dorlisa Henderson of Dothan waits in line at Staples in Decatur on Friday morning, appearing tired but satisfied with her Black Friday finds. Staples store manager Chris Jacobs  said Friday sales at the store were “well above expectations.”
Daily photo by John Godbey
Dorlisa Henderson of Dothan waits in line at Staples in Decatur on Friday morning, appearing tired but satisfied with her Black Friday finds. Staples store manager Chris Jacobs said Friday sales at the store were “well above expectations.”

Surviving
Black Friday

Crowds form early in Decatur in annual rush for bargains

By Kristen Bishop
kbishop@decaturdaily.com· 340-2443

The crowd of contestants huddled behind the starting line anxiously awaiting their cue to run.

Mothers hoping to score the perfect Christmas presents, fathers dragged to the mall by their wives and various hopeful bargain hunters stared intently at the security guard as she unlocked the door at the main Colonial Mall entrance Friday at 4:30 a.m.

As soon as the doors swung open, the crowd of shoppers flew past the security guard as if a gunshot had been fired. Not even slowing down for turns, the men and women, young and old, made their way to KB Toys on Black Friday.

“I’ve never seen people move so fast,” said Paula Moody of Caddo. “It’s like they’re hungry or something.”

Clutching her purse, she accelerated her pace to be one of the first in front of the toy store, which didn’t open its doors until 5 a.m.

Moody was on a mission. Her 3-year-old son, Brody, had asked for characters from the Pixar movie “Cars” for Christmas, and she desperately needed to get her hands on Doc Hudson, Flo, Chick Hicks and Ramone.

Must-have toys

The toys have been hot items this Christmas season after the movie’s release earlier this year. Other must-haves for children include the T.M.X. Elmo, a 10th anniversary edition of the Tickle Me Elmo; Moon Sand, modernized Play-Doh that supposedly never dries out; and the Fly Wheels XPV, a remote-controlled car that can travel up to 20 mph and fly up to 20 stories high.

“It’s a good thing you’re tall, so you can reach over people for stuff,” joked Moody’s friend, Vickie Youngblood. “You may even have to fight for it.”

The tension grew as KB Toys employees, from behind the closed gate, began calling out names of merchandise in limited quantities and passing out numbers to the first shoppers to respond.

Tonya Whitaker of Decatur was able to snag the only Designer’s World Plug ‘n’ Play discounted from $39.99 to $29.99 before the store even opened.

The day after Thanksgiving is commonly referred to as Black Friday by merchants. It got its name because many stores that would otherwise be in the red traditionally ended up posting profits from the surge in holiday shopping.

“We actually like to call it Green Friday, because we take in so much cash,” said KB Toys District Manager Tom Edwards as he rubbed his fingers together, making the sign for money. “It sounds a lot better than Black Friday.”

Though Edwards said the day after Thanksgiving is KB Toys’ biggest day for sales, that’s not the case for all stores. Dillard’s Department Store Manager Billy Elliot said his store brings in the most profit the last Saturday before Christmas.

“With the last Saturday falling the day before Christmas Eve this year, it’ll be huge,” he said.

At 3 p.m., Dillard’s was not meeting it’s expectation of a 5 to 10 percent increase in sales over last year’s totals, but Elliot said he planned to end the day with an increase of 2 to 3 percent.

“We had a great October and November, and we’ll just keep getting busier in December,” he said. “It kicks off with our VIP event Dec. 2. People are just waiting longer these days to shop.”

He said the store’s three busiest shopping days are the VIP event, the last Saturday before Christmas and the last full weekday before Christmas. Dillard’s after-Thanksgiving sale prices will continue through tonight.

Staples, which had a full parking lot when it opened at 6 a.m., fared well on Black Friday, said Store Manager Chris Jacobs.

“We can’t give out actual numbers, but we’re doing much better than last year, well above expectations,” he said.

The store’s two biggest deals, a 32-inch television for $599 and a laptop for $399 sold out almost as soon as the doors opened, he said.

Shoppers waited in long lines to purchase after-Thanksgiving bargains at Staples on Friday morning.
Daily photo by John Godbey
Shoppers waited in long lines to purchase after-Thanksgiving bargains at Staples on Friday morning.
KB Toys Assistant Manager Patty Gilliland said by 11 a.m., the store was four percent above last year’s Black Friday sales.

“The economy’s a little better, gas prices have gone down a bit, and people are just in the mood to be out and spending money,” she said.

But apparently low prices weren’t the only incentives bringing people to the checkout counter. The GAP in Colonial Mall at 2:30 p.m. was running out of hoodies, down jackets and ribbed turtlenecks — items that weren’t even marked down for the holidays. The store’s current promotion, spend at least $50 and get 15 percent off, has been going on since Nov. 22 and doesn’t end until Sunday, said Store Manager Jonathan Glaze.

“It’s not always about the bargain,” he said. “It’s just a good day for people to shop.”

Black Friday may not be the most prosperous day of the season for businesses, but it does set the tone for the overall season. Store managers agreed that what consumers see that day influences where they will shop for the remainder of the year.

Last year, national Black Friday sales dipped 0.9 percent to $8 billion from the year before because of massive discounting, according to Shopper Trak RCT Corp., which monitors sales at more than 45,000 retail outlets. For the Thanksgiving weekend, total sales rose just 0.4 percent to $16.8 billion.

According to a Consumer Reports survey of 1,000 adults, people will spend an average of 13 hours shopping for the holidays. But women will spend the most time, with 42 percent spending 10 or more hours shopping compared with 29 percent of men.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Copyright 2005 THE DECATUR DAILY. All rights reserved.
AP contributed to this report.

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