Businesses looking for edge on competition this Black Friday

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Published: November 19,2007

The turkey is barely cold before shoppers hit malls and Main Streets for Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving that kicks off the holiday shopping season. It’s traditionally one of the busiest shopping days of the year, and the nickname refers to the beginning of the cycle in which businesses leave “the red” and begin to turn a profit.

The last few years have had businesses opening in the wee morning hours to get a jump on the competition. This year, some shopping centers are even opening at midnight.

Vicksburg Factory Outlets will begin their Moonlight Madness specials at midnight. “It’s an industry-wide thing among outlet malls to do something a little bit different,” said general manager Margaret Gilmer. “Outlet malls are usually located farther out and do not have toy and electronic stores, so we have to entice people to come.”

Those incentives include three free shopping sprees given away from midnight until 6 a.m. Friday and various promotions by stores. It has also started its Light-O-Rama show for visitors’ enjoyment from now through New Year’s Eve. That is 150 decorated trees that light up to music. Extra security will be on hand along with policemen and sheriff’s deputies who will make Vicksburg Factory Outlets their coffee stop.

“We face the challenge of getting people to shop during those early hours and getting store employees enthusiastic about it,” Gilmer said. “The employees are determined to make it fun. That’s how we’re approaching it.”

She feels being near Vicksburg’s 24-hour casino activity will help bring shoppers to the mall and is hopeful of a revenue increase this season.

“We’re concerned about the season in general, but people can come here and save some money,” she said. “The department stores will come out heavy. We’re aware of that competition and prepared for it.”

Edgewater Mall in Biloxi opens at 6 a.m., but some department stores will open at 5 a.m. as they have in recent years.

“We’re not opening at midnight because we think Thanksgiving is a day for families to be together, and we want to give employees a full day off,” said marketing director Michelle Rogers. “From indications, we expect sales in the same range as last year. Higher gas prices are the unknown factor, but we’re very hopeful about the season.”

She said the mall will offer customers everything they need for shopping and convenience throughout the season. A special program, Random Acts of Kindness, begins on Black Friday.

“It’s to help us all remember why we have the season. We will choose people to pay for their purchases through December 24,” Rogers said. “We want to help shoppers stop and remember to be kind to each other.”

Shoppers do not have to register or fill out any forms to be eligible to win. The only requirement is to shop in a store at Edgewater Mall from November 23 through December 24.

For Neilson’s Department Store on the square in Oxford, tradition and personal service are the keys to holiday shopping. The family-owned business was founded in 1839 and justifiably claims to be the oldest business in the South.

Amanda Lewis Hyneman manages the women’s department of the store owned by her family. “We’re fully stocked and ready for shoppers,” she said. “The Ole Miss students leave around the first weekend of December, and that makes parking easier. We’re able to better accommodate local customers.”

The venerable store, along with other businesses on the square, participated in the late hours of the holiday open house last weekend, and will open the last two Sunday afternoons before Christmas. Neilson’s also offers free gift wrapping and delivery.

Northpark Mall in Jackson will pass out coupon books — good till early that afternoon — at the entrances Friday when doors open at 5 a.m. General manager Audrie Thompson said JCPenney with a 4 a.m. opening will be the earliest of the department stores to open.

“There won’t be any entertainment that day. It’s a day reserved for shopping,” she said. “The coupon books are to reward those who get up early and come out.”

However, there is one special event on Black Friday, and that’s the beginning of Northpark’s new kids club, Kidgits, that will present special events for children. Community groups are being lined up to entertain shoppers later in the season. Lists with dates and times are posted in the mall.

“We do that in the spirit of community service and to make shopping here more pleasant,” Thompson said. “We have a long list of schools and other groups that will perform.”

Northpark Mall has already seen an increase in traffic, she said, and the office is getting phone calls asking about extended hours. New businesses include: a store featuring calendars, games and toys; San Francisco Music Box; Gourmet Fair selling the food people like at the state fair; and, Gifts For You with engraving for personalized items.

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynn Lofton at llofton656@aol.com.

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