Black Friday sneak attack: Some metro Birmingham retailers open today, others wait for midnight
Dawn Kent / The Birmingham News
If you’re thinking of taking a leisurely nap after turkey time today before mapping out a strategy to get a jump on all the Black Friday sales, think again.
Black Friday is already here.
In fact, the bonanza of deals and discounts traditionally found on the day after Thanksgiving has been going on for several weeks at some retailers, as they aim to stretch the 2010 holiday shopping season.
Early birds, among retailers and shoppers, are a key trend this season, which is widely projected to be brighter than the past two years.
Kohl’s, for example, has been offering Black Friday-esque promotions since early this month, including extended hours and extra discounts.
Meanwhile, some stores are hoping shoppers hit the street even before their Thanksgiving leftovers go cold. Old Navy, Sears and Kmart are among the retailers open today, although openings could vary by location.
And on Black Friday itself, the early trend continues. The Shops of Grand River, the new outlet mall in Leeds, opens at midnight. Some stores at The Summit shopping center in Birmingham also open at midnight, followed by others throughout the wee hours.
Hoover’s Riverchase Galleria will open at 4 a.m., followed by Colonial Brookwood Village at 7. Meanwhile, Belk, Sears and JC Penney stores are set for 4 a.m. starts, which also could vary by site.
“It’s like everybody is trying to get you into their store first,” said Jeff Green, a Phoenix-based retail consultant. “We certainly have seen a lot more promotional items earlier in the year this year.”
Green questions the value of some retailers being open on Thanksgiving Day, since women are the primary shoppers and they’re also usually busy in the kitchen on the holiday.
“But again, everybody is fighting for the same dollar, and the same dollar is harder to get in this economy than it’s ever been,” he said.
As for Black Friday itself, shopper traffic could be diminished after all the pre-Thanksgiving discounts, he said. While the National Retail Federation said traffic could rise over 2009 by up to 3 percent, Green believes it will fall about 5 percent.
However, such projections vary by market, he said.
In Alabama, merchants are hoping for a bump in traffic on Black Friday, so called because it’s historically the first time retailers showed a profit during the year.
But most realistically expect a boost only in the morning or evening. In the afternoon, the annual gridiron clash between Alabama and Auburn kicks off at 1:30 p.m, and shoppers will likely leave the stores to gather around their televisions, as they did last year.
“Alabama sales on Black Friday lag compared to the national trend because of the intensity of the Iron Bowl,” said Jim Spahn, spokesman for Colonial Brookwood Village. “On Friday, you will have early shoppers, then late shoppers, with a five- to six-hour lag for the Iron Bowl.”
However, since the Iron Bowl also was played on Black Friday last year, year-over-year sales should be up for this year’s big shopping day, Spahn said. And for the season, Brookwood officials expect sales increases in the mid single digits, he said.
Some stores try to work around the big game.
For instance, Cahaba Heights children’s clothing shop The Lili Pad will close at 12:30 p.m. Friday in preparation for the game.
But the store opens earlier than usual Friday — at 8 a.m. — and extends its hours throughout the weekend to make up for the lost afternoon.
“We’ll be open on Sunday since we’re closing early on Friday,” said co-owner Katherine McRee.
The Pants Store, which has four area locations, also set an early 8 a.m. opening on Friday, said owner Michael Gee.
“In years past, we have not opened up early like the big boxes do…we typically let the malls do that and people come to see us later,” he said. “But because the retail dies so much at kickoff, we’re doing some early morning promotions, from 8 to 9 and from 9 to 11, to get people on in.”
For many shoppers, taking advantage of the deals offered on Black Friday is an annual tradition, and this year will be the same.
Nicole Varden of Birmingham and Phyllis Bolton of Daphne, who shopped last week at The Summit, both plan to shop on Black Friday.
“I probably cut my Christmas spending in half shopping on Black Friday,” said Varden.
Bolton said she’s also noticed retailers getting a head start on Black Friday.
“It seems to me they’re starting earlier, before Thanksgiving, with all the deals,” she said.