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Published: Saturday, 11/24/2012 - Updated: 1 year ago

Black Friday shoppers swarm area stores to snap up specials

BY TYREL LINKHORN
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER
Shoppers wait to check out on Black Friday at Bass Pro Shops in Rossford. General manager Jarron Ritchie said about 700 people were waiting outside the outdoor megastore for the doors to open on Friday morning. Shoppers wait to check out on Black Friday at Bass Pro Shops in Rossford. General manager Jarron Ritchie said about 700 people were waiting outside the outdoor megastore for the doors to open on Friday morning.
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The day that has become the traditional kick-start to the frenzied five-week shopping period between Thanksgiving and Christmas looked particularly strong for many local retailers Friday, giving them a shot of optimism that this year could be a good one.

“People are buying,” said Phil Kajca, owner of the local J. Foster Jewelers and Pandora stores. “I think we’ve been through a lot of tough times and people are bruised, but there’s a lot of pent-up demand and they’re ready to spend.”

Mr. Kajca, who was weary but solidly upbeat Friday afternoon, has run a store at Westfield Franklin Park for 30 years, and said he’s never seen a higher volume of foot traffic on Black Friday. That’s encouraging, especially considering Thanksgiving was a bit early this year.

“To see this much traffic this early, I think people are going to shop,” he said. “There’s been a lot of good news about Toledo, whether it be Jeep or whatever, there’s been more positive than negative. The election’s behind us. I think that makes people pause a little, and with that over, I think they’re ready to shop.”

Special Black Friday sales began Thanksgiving night and continued into Friday morning, drawing thousands of eager shoppers to line up and wait for once-a-year-type deals.

Franklin Park, Target, Bass Pro Shops, and Appliance Center all drew hundreds for their respective openings, which ranged from late Thursday night to early Friday morning.

Jarron Ritchie, the general manager of Bass Pro Shops’ Rossford store, said about 700 people were waiting outside the outdoor megastore Friday morning — two days after it had 300 waiting for the Wednesday opening.

The store was still buzzing at 9:30 a.m., with shoppers scooping up highly discounted flannel shirts, jeans, and other items.

Eli Valiquette was carrying out a toy all-terrain vehicle he bought for his soon-to-be 1-year-old grandson. Normally, Mr. Valiquette wouldn’t be among the throngs of Black Friday shoppers, but he said he saw the camo-colored toy advertised in The Blade for 40 percent off and decided it would make a good gift.

“We came yesterday to check it out and make sure we knew where everything was at,” the Bowling Green man said. “Just like hunting, you gotta go scout it out.”

Mike DeBrosse, right, of Maumee checks out the Black Friday deals on televisions at the Appliance Center Home Store in Maumee. Mike DeBrosse, right, of Maumee checks out the Black Friday deals on televisions at the Appliance Center Home Store in Maumee.
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Appliance Center co-owner John Oswald said his store in Mamuee had 800 people waiting for the doors to open.

“It was something totally unexpected,” he said. “We’ve always had pretty big crowds, but this one was exceptional.”

Appliance Center had 125 employees on hand to handle the 6 a.m. rush. Traditional items such as video games and other electronics found buyers, but Mr. Oswald also said larger items such as furniture and appliances were selling well.

“Appliance and furniture manufacturers never really got onboard with Black Friday, and now they do. They really cut the deals and we load it in for them. In the past it was strictly an electronics weekend: the games, the computers. It’s definitely spread out.”

Though Appliance Center stuck with its 6 a.m. opening time and Bass Pro only bumped theirs up one hour to 5 a.m., many retailers continued inching their openings up. More than half of Franklin Park’s shops opened at midnight, with the rest opening at 5 a.m. Last year only about 20 retailers were open at midnight.

Americans have grown more comfortable shopping on Web sites that offer cheap prices and the convenience of being able to buy something from smart phones, laptops, and tablet computers from just about anywhere. That puts added pressure on brick-and-mortar stores, which can make up to 40 percent of their annual revenue during the holiday shopping season, to give consumers a compelling reason to leave their homes.

That's becoming more difficult: the National Retail Federation, an industry trade group, estimates that overall sales in November and December will rise 4.1 percent this year to $586.1 billion, below last year’s 5.6 percent growth. But the online part of that is expected to rise 15 percent to $68.4 billion, according to Forrester Research.

As a result, brick-and-mortar retailers have been trying everything they can to lure consumers into stores. Some stores tested the earlier hours last year, but this year more retailers opened their doors late on Thanksgiving or at midnight on Black Friday. In addition to expanding their hours, many also are offering free layaways and shipping, matching the cheaper prices of online rivals and updating their mobile shopping apps with more information.

With deals starting earlier and earlier, many shoppers hit some sales Thursday night, sneaked in a quick catnap, and were back at it Friday.

Toledo-area friends Cari Freeman and Jennifer Tresso had been to, among other stores, Sears, Target, Macy’s, Walmart, Dick’s Sporting Goods, and Toys ‘R’ Us. Some of those they visited more than once.

“It’s been a long day,” Ms. Tresso said.

But they love it. Ms. Tresso is so serious about Black Friday that she trades co-workers the Thanksgiving holiday so she can be off for the shopping holiday.

And she’s being generous with her big deal this year. A 50-inch TV scored for $349 will be donated to a friend organizing a benefit for a woman fighting breast cancer.

The two started Thanksgiving night and were wrapping up their shopping around lunchtime Friday.

“We did good. Now we’re done. Broke and done,” Ms. Freeman said with a laugh.

Jessica Ramirez, a salesman at Bath and Body Works, helps direct customers at Westfield Franklin Park. Jessica Ramirez, a salesman at Bath and Body Works, helps direct customers at Westfield Franklin Park.
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Looking over items at Bath and Body Works in Franklin Park, Brittany Stout and her aunt, Alice Leu, were well into their shopathon. The duo started at 9 p.m. Thursday and shopped till 1 a.m. They were back at it at 5 a.m.

“It’s tradition. For me it’s just about being together,” Ms. Leu said.

“We’ve been doing this about 20 years,” Ms. Stout said. “People are getting way better at ... making things run smoothly.”

And having a smooth day is one of the keys to having a profitable day, said Bath and Body Works store manager John Salow.

“It’s all about line management, creating the illusion there's no line,” Mr. Salow said. “When you have a long line, people say, ‘Oh, I’m not going in there.’ So that’s part of the reason we do good business. ... That and good deals.”

Like much of the mall, Mr. Salow said his store was very busy from midnight to about 3 a.m., even outpacing last year. By 6 a.m., the crowds had died down. But by mid-morning they were ramping back up and the store was packed early Friday afternoon.

Julie Heigel, the mall’s director of marketing, said no official numbers were available on early shoppers, but she guessed 300-400 people were outside Victoria’s Secret alone.

Not everyone comes out to shop, though. Conneaut, Ohio, resident Bob Dudley was kicked back on a padded bench in the center of the mall. Mr. Dudley said he was there with his wife, two Toledo-area daughters, and a granddaughter. He’d done a little shopping, but he was there for the coffee, the company, the crowds, and “just to see the chaotic day,” he said with a laugh.

“I am sort of impressed though,” Mr. Dudley said. “A bunch of people are carrying bags. That’s a good sign.”

Josh Harmon, co-owner of the mall’s Bumble Olive Oil Co., which opened June 6, opened at midnight with an all-family crew in order to give his workers a little extra time on their hoilday. Business had been steady all day, he said.

“If this is any indication of how the next five weekends are going to go between now and Christmas, I’m very happy with what we’re selling,” Mr. Harmon said.

Retailers and shoppers around the area reported a mostly incident-free day, though there was at least one dark spot on Black Friday.

A 22-year-old Toledo woman is to be arraigned in Toledo Municipal Court today for allegedly punching a loss prevention officer after she was stopped for shoplifting.

Ricki Harris of 5452 Bentwood Dr. is charged with robbery and receiving stolen property.

Ms. Harris, who was being held in the Lucas County jail on Friday, was stopped by a loss prevention officer, who was not identified in court documents, after it was suspected that she stole items from Hollister and Abercrombie and Fitch at Westfield Franklin Park.

The suspect allegedly grabbed the officer’s hair and repeatedly punched the officer’s face, court documents allege.

Police said that, after Ms. Harris was taken into custody by a Lucas County Sheriff’s deputy, officers found almost $150 worth of merchandise allegedly stolen from Bath & Body Works.

Contact Tyrel Linkhorn at: tlinkhorn@theblade.com or 419-724-6134.



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