Leader Blues

Friday, November 27, 2009

TOP STORY >> Christmas shopping kicks off with rush

By RICK KRON
Leader staff writer

“All our TVs just blew out of here this morning,” said Clint Cook with the Cabot Walmart Supercenter, adding that the store had been pretty crowded all day.

Early local indicators point to a strong sales season as Cook’s sentiments were echoed Friday afternoon by many other area retailers, all saying that Black Friday was turning out well.

The National Retail Federation estimated that more than 130 million Americans hit the stores the day after Thanksgiving and spent between $300 and $400 each. One out of 10 shoppers started lining up outside their choice of stores as early as midnight.

But still, with national unemployment figures at 10.2 percent, many analysts expect total holiday sales to be about even with the dismal levels of a year ago.

Michael Smith with the Jacksonville Walmart Supercenter said laptops and televisions had been really strong early Friday. “We’ve still got a good crowd,” he said about mid-afternoon Friday.

Both Smith and Cook stressed the crowds were orderly during the big morning rush and there were no problems at either store.

Safety was a concern after a Walmart employee was trampled to death in Long Island, N.Y., last year.

Cook said the store organized the sale items and customer lines a little differently this year and that helped prevent any problems.

Smith said about a half dozen Jacksonville police officers were on hand during the rush to help with crowd control. “It all went well,” he said.

Cindy Carter at Chambers Drug, a mainstay in downtown Jacksonville, said the crowd was bigger than normal. “It’s been great.

We had a big burst when we opened at nine and then it cleared out some but has been crazy since 10 this morning.” Carter said the store’s offer of free gift-wrap has really helped.

Ralph Wilkin at Whit Davis Lumber in Jacksonville was also pleased. “It started out slow as everyone was at the Walmarts and Best Buys, but has really picked up this afternoon. For the economy, it has turned out pretty good. Much better than last year,” Wilkin said.

A manager at Big Lots in Jacksonville said business “has been super. Everything is rolling good.”

At the Cabot Kmart, things were apparently going so well that the receptionist said, “We are too busy to talk to the newspaper.

Call back in a couple of days.”

Curtis Green at Fred’s in Jacksonville said it’s been a good day. “We’ve had decent traffic and everything has gone smoothly.”

Green said the store has sold a lot of toys and DVD players.

At the local Sears, the manager said customers scarfed up a lot of appliances. “It’s been a really good day,” he said.

Ginger Lassiter, owner of the Ginger Tree in Sherwood, said everything was going fine. “We’ve been busy most of the day. It’s been very steady,” she said.

Sherwood and Jacksonville police said that that except for some traffic jams near the stores, the day was quiet for them.

Black Friday gets its name because it traditionally was the day when huge crowds would push stores into “the black,” or profitability. But the weekend doesn’t necessarily predict spending for the rest of the season, which accounts for as much as 40 percent of annual sales and profits for many stores.

Retailers closely study buying patterns for the Thanksgiving weekend to gauge shoppers’ mindsets — what kinds of items they’re buying and what deals are luring them in to stores.