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Businesses back in black

November 29, 2012
By Katie Kuba, Melissa Toothman and Casey Houser - Staff Writers ( , The Inter-Mountain

The color most commonly associated with Christmastime might be red, but retailers across the region reported being in the black following the Black Friday holiday shopping extravaganza last week.

This year, Black Friday sales began earlier than ever, with some businesses kickstarting doorbuster sales at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving Eve, while others opened at a more traditional time in the early morning of Black Friday.

Regardless of the hour at which they opened, most store managers are reporting increases in sales and shopper turnout.

Peebles on the Beverly Pike in Elkins reported a sizable hike in last year's sales numbers.

"When you combine the two days (Thursday and Friday), we were up 43 percent (from 2011)," said store manager Jeremy Hunter. "Of course, we didn't have the highest numbers in the company - one store in New Jersey had a 129 percent increase in sales."

The most wanted items included an Android tablet on sale for $59.99 "that sold out in like the first five minutes" Peebles was open, Hunter said.

"Another popular thing was as-seen-on-TV kids' gifts like the Stompeez (kids' slippers) and (Pillow Pet) Dream Lites," he added. "Those went real quick. And we always sell a lot of men's gifts."

Veto Moots, store manager of Elkins Kmart, said Black Friday weekend sales were up from 2011, but did not disclose a specific figure.

"Thursday was the best day of the two," Moots observed. "Friday was steady, no major rushes, no major lines, just a steady constant flow of people." TVs and tablets topped Kmart shoppers' lists, he noted.

At least one Buckhannon store experienced what was described as a "blow-out weekend" after opening Thursday for Thanksgiving sales leading into Black Friday.

Buckhannon Goody's store manager Trena Lewis said her store was continuously busy throughout the weekend, with overall sales exceeding her expectations. She also said that opening the stores on Thanksgiving had a positive impact, not only for the Buckhannon store, but for the entire Goody's district.

"The sales that were on Thursday, they just blew through the roof what they expected us to do," Lewis said. "We beat last year's sales for the entire Thanksgiving Day weekend." Lewis was unable to provide specific numbers, however.

Some hot items included a 7-inch tablet that sold out after 30 seconds, Lewis said. As-seen-on TV kids' Stompeez slippers and Pillow Pet Dream Lites night lights also flew off the shelves.

"We did really good sales, but with being open Thanksgiving night, it kind of took the brunt out of Black Friday, but we were still extremely busy," Lewis said.

Despite a bustling store atmosphere, Lewis said she had no trouble with any customers.

"The customers that were in our stores that Thanksgiving evening were the most courteous, friendliest, patient people that I've ever seen," Lewis said. "It couldn't be the success it was without the generosity of the customers and their patience. It was just a wonderful atmosphere that night."

The success of local retailers appears to be part of a larger nationwide trend, according to data from the National Retail Federation, the world's largest retail trade association representing retailers in the United States and 45 other countries.

According to a survey conducted for the NRF, more people spent more money over the Black Friday weekend - which the NRF defined as Thursday, Friday, Saturday and projected sales for Sunday - than ever before. Eighty-nine million shoppers hit retail stores to bag bargains - 3 million more than in 2011, which saw 86 million people venture out on the biggest shopping day of the year.

And according to NRF data, the average holiday shopper shelled out $423 over the Black Friday weekend this year, as compared to $398 in 2011. NRF findings also demonstrated that more people were willing to shop on Thursday post-Thanksgiving feast. While 29 million Americans visited retail stores and websites on Thanksgiving Day in 2011, an estimated 35 million did so this Thanksgiving.

But not every register was ringing more frequently this year than in the past.

Sears in Buckhannon reported a possible small decline in Black Friday sales from last year, citing a lagging economy. The store made $33,000 on Black Friday, said Kristi Roby, a Sears sales associate.

"The consumers are not able to afford what we had," Roby said. "Everything's tight."

Meanwhile, Big Lots in Elkins broke even. Store manager Dave Perry observed that while sale numbers were stronger Thursday, they were down a bit Friday.

A day later, small businesses seemed to shine on Small Business Saturday, as they attempted to keep pace with larger outfitters.

Sue Pifer, owner of Elkins Sewing Center, was happy with how the weekend unfolded.

"We were really pleased with the response," she said.

Pifer said consumers shopped for a variety of goods and that no single item seemed more in demand than others.

Marlea Wheeler, owner of Marlea's Clothing Store in Elkins, was ecstatic.

"Friday, Saturday and Monday were probably my best (days) ever," she said. "It was great. I couldn't have handled any more."



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