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Banking on bargains
Merchants ready for rush of shoppers
Target Blk Friday 4 es
Eddie Picklesimer looks through items in the electronics department Tuesday at Super Target in Cumming. Retailers expect crowds as early as 5 a.m. for Black Friday sales. - photo by Emily Saunders
Shoppers can look forward to “50 fabulous finds” this Black Friday, and that’s just at one local store.

On the day after Thanksgiving, retailers across Forsyth County will open their doors as early as 5 a.m. to offer the year’s best prices for holiday buying.

Linda Israel, general manager at Stein Mart, said this year the store in Cumming’s Lakeland Plaza is trying something “we’ve never done before.”

“We’re having ‘50 Fabulous Finds’ that are a secret until Friday morning,” she said. “We’re hoping ... that we will be extremely busy. We’re geared up for it.”

Retailers throughout the county will discount everything from flat-screen televisions and video games to books and toys.

As many as 134 million shoppers nationwide are expected to be out Friday hunting the best deals, according to the National Retail Federation.
The number is an increase over last year’s 128 million estimate.

Cris Willis, owner of Parson’s Gifts & Collectibles, also in Lakeland, is expecting a similar trend in Forsyth County.

Business has kicked up a notch over the past several weeks, she said, and Black Friday is going to bring in crowds.

“We had a great October and so far November has been great, so we’re really excited,” she said. “Everything’s been an uphill climb, so we’re expecting a huge weekend.”

It’s going to be an early morning for shoppers hoping for door-buster sales at the Super Target in Cumming.

But the day will start even earlier for store manager Steve Reid and staff. The Market Place Boulevard location will open at 5 a.m. Friday to “give guests more time to be able to shop.”

“We do expect lines and people to be waiting for the most popular items,” he said. “We will have all registers open ... and we will have super hot prices on toys, electronics and clothing.”

The day after Thanksgiving has traditionally been known as Black Friday because of its penchant for helping businesses move from red ink shortfalls to black ink profits.

But with the weakened economy, the emphasis has slowly shifted to the week before and after also Thanksgiving, said Georgia Retail Association President John Heavener.

“[Businesses] need the money and the sales now, and we’ve seen more people giving sales that are as good as Black Friday sales earlier this week, and we’ve also seen people that are doing sales throughout the holiday shopping season,” Heavener said.

“That said, we think Black Friday will be good. I think there’s a lot of pent up shopping angst in Georgia where people want to go out and buy, but they haven’t because of the situation that we have.”

Wal-Mart is celebrating Black Friday a little differently this year.

To help manage the anticipated large crowds, manager Russ Hilsher said the hot items will have their own lines at the Market Place Boulevard Wal-Mart.

“We’re actually going to have a controlled environment to where there are actually going to be lines set up for each item,” he said. “The customer will get in line and get a pull tag ticket for that item. So it will kind of hold back the mass hysteria of the whole event.”

Customers can go to in advance and pull up a map of Hilsher’s store so they know exactly where to go to be first in line when the deals start at 5 a.m.

“I think it’s going to make everybody have a better shopping experience, because it will be more controlled,” Hilsher said. “I’m looking forward to it.”

The most popular gifts this year, according to the National Retail Federation, are similar to last year’s.

Dolls, Barbie merchandise, Hannah Montana and video games are among the top toys for girls.

For boys, video games top the list, with Transformers, LEGOs and cars not far behind.

Nintendo Wii and DS systems were in the top 10 list for both genders.

Pokemon and Bakugan toys are also strong this year, said Reid of Target, as are G.I. Joe toys, which will tie in with the movie recently released on DVD.

For adults, “televisions are really huge, especially the larger screen televisions like the 1080p higher-definition television,” he said.

“Blu-ray DVD players and Blu-ray movies are also huge as people convert over from the regular DVD format to the Blu-ray DVD format,” Reid said.

Israel said cashmere sweaters in the Stein Mart boutique will be the best sellers for women. For men, anything golf will sell well.

To help make the day as exciting for her employees as customers, “we’re having black balloons and they can wear jeans and a black shirt.”

“We’re having some fun with it,” Israel said about the 30 employees slated to work Friday. “Because it’s busy ... and you’ve just got to have fun with it.”

While retailers will be having fun, Willis said it’s still all about business in the end.

“The fourth quarter is definitely over half of our business and a large portion of that is coming from those weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas,” she said. “They are critical. They make or break your year.

“At some point in November you break even for the year, and if there’s any profit to be made, it’s going to come in that last week or two before Christmas, if you’re lucky. So we bank heavily on that.”