Business

Black Friday shopping is a competitive sport

Posted November 25, 2011 9:00 a.m. EST
Updated November 25, 2011 2:16 p.m. EST

— Scoring Black Friday sales is a competitive sport for thousands of Triangle shoppers and for the big-box stores and small, local stores competing for their dollars.

"This is the Super Bowl. We've been talking about it week after week: Play-off one, play-off two, play-off three!" Best Buy manager Curtis Allen revved up employees at his Cary store before a midnight opening.

"If you talk about winning, as in a sport, the main objective will be to hunt down those items, find them, get them and buy them," shopper Anthony Rummel said.

For retailers, the stakes are also high on Black Friday. It kicks off the holiday shopping season when stores make 25 to 40 percent of their annual revenue.

Small, independent stores in Raleigh's Cameron Village offered discounts between 30 and 50 percent to lure customers.

Susan Dworsky said she's a longtime customer of Scout and Molly's, in part, because of the reputation of owner Lisa Vincent.

"I like to support local business. I know Lisa's a great businesswoman in the community, and she does a lot of charity work and a lot of animal rescues," Dworsky said. "I just like to support those endeavors. And she's got great stuff."

Vincent said she expected business to be even better tomorrow on Small Business Saturday, an initiative to get people to shop local.

This year, many retailers added opening at midnight – or even earlier – to their bag of tricks to draw in shoppers.

More than 700 people were ready to go when the Toys 'R Us in Cary opened at 9 p.m. Thursday. Managers let in 50 people at a time to keep order.

Tiffany Jennings and her husband called first dibs on the toy sales by getting in line four hours earlier. She said the sales were well worth the wait.

"When it's your kids' happiness, you'd do anything for them," Jennings said.

Retailers hope the earlier openings will make Black Friday shopping more convenient for Americans worried about high unemployment and the weak economy.

About 34 percent of consumers plan to shop on Black Friday, up from 31 percent last year, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers, and 16 percent had planned to shop on Thanksgiving Day itself. For the weekend, 152 million people are expected to shop, up from 138 million last year.

"It's a good move to try to get shoppers to spend sooner before they run out of money," said Burt Flickinger, III, president of retail consultancy Strategic Resource Group.

Some shoppers weren't swayed by the early openings. They came out for deals early Friday but said they weren't willing to cut into the Thanksgiving holiday.

"You're rushing through dinner and your time with the family," shopper Maddie Bunjay said.

"You shouldn't be opening the stores up at midnight," shopper Bill Bentley said. "My belief is that Thanksgiving is a family holiday and that you should spend it with our family and that shopping really shouldn't start until sometime early morning, maybe as early as 6 a.m."

Allen said Best Buy offered its employees a choice of early and late shifts to work on Black Friday.

"The associates are here today energized and ready to go, because we gave them that choice," he said. "They're here now, serving the customers when they want to be."

Other shoppers said the great deals – from $10 blenders to low-priced toys and electronics – were enough to draw them out at just about any time.

"It's not that fun, but in the end, the savings are good," shopper Joy Lynn Borden said. "With the way the economy is, you've got to save money where you can, and of course, that's what I'm doing for my kids."