Bracing for Black Friday

By Jeffery Whitfield

Lydell Brumfield isn't sure what he wants to buy when he considers trekking to stores tomorrow. But he is certain of one thing: that he wants to visit stores on Friday, the annual holiday when shoppers flock to stores to take advantage of sales traditionally staged by retailers to kick off the holiday shopping season.

“I'm going to visit and take it from there I guess,” the 28-year-old said.

The day after Thanksgiving dubbed “Black Friday, considered a pivotal point for retailers that go from being “in the red,” or losing money, to “in the black,” or profitable, is expected to be a major draw at shopping venues in the Southern Crescent.

It's the day when shoppers line up, sometimes several hours before stores open in the wee hours of the morning, to be the first in and first out with the best holiday deals.

The day after Thanksgiving is a day retailers prepare for long in advance to meet the crush of deal-hungry Christmas shoppers.

Southlake Mall officials have been planning for Black Friday since August. The holiday is expected to draw 25 percent more traffic at the mall than on an average Saturday

“Our average traffic is approximately 40,000 people on a Saturday,” said Andrea Brinkman, a spokeswoman for Southlake Mall, which is based in Morrow.

Southlake Mall has more than 120 department stores and specialty shops.

To help accommodate the expected rush, mall hours have been extended from 6 a.m. 10 p.m. Regular hours are 10 a.m. to 9 p.m..

Hours will vary in the weeks leading up to Christmas, Brinkman said.

Incentives the mall will offer on Black Friday consist of free shopping bags, gift cards, and a “Mom's VIP,” which features giveaways such as free carousel rides. The target group the mall focuses on are women age 25 to 54.

Entertainment also will be featured at the mall on Black Friday as three musical groups will perform there.

Major department store retailers at the mall have also been busy preparing.

“We have more customer service associates this year and a lot of help in the morning,” said Billy Kendricks, manager of the J.C. Penney at Southlake Mall.

The busiest time of the day at J.C. Penney likely will be from 5 a.m. to noon, Kendricks said. Store hours are 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. though Kendricks' day will begin at 3:30 a.m. when he arrives at work to prepare for the rush.

Shoppers the department store retailer typically caters to are age 25 to 45 who are moderate spenders, though residents of all ages visit on Black Friday, Kendricks said.

“This is the single biggest day. There is not other day that will compare,” he said. To help entice residents to come to the store, “door busters,” or early sales items, will be offered, Kendricks said.

Kendricks recalls seeing residents drive from as far south as Griffin and Macon to visit the mall on Black Friday because it is a major regional mall in south metro Atlanta.

Only a few miles south of Clayton in Henry County, retailers also are preparing for Black Friday. Jackie Sewell, the manager of the 70-store Tanger Outlet Center in Locust Grove, calls it “green Friday.”

The center recently finished a 10-store expansion building that houses a Polo store, a Rack Room shoe store and others, which is expected to draw even more shoppers to the center than last year.

“We definitely expect to have a bigger crowd because of the addition of new stores,” Sewell said.

She said the complex could likely see sales as much as 10 percent or more higher than last year's receipts.

Additional traffic control officers, janitorial staff and security have been scheduled for the weekend, she said, and stores within Tanger have been encouraged to make sure their outlets are fully staffed as well.

The National Retail Federation, an industry trade association, expects 130 million residents nationwide will shop on Black Friday weekend, which will be Nov. 25 to 27.

The federation expects total holiday retail sales this year to increase 6 percent over last year to $439.53 billion. Holiday retail sales are retail industry sales which occur in the months of November and December, according to the federation.

Daily Herald reporter Mike Davis contributed to this story.