Stores in downtown Columbia have a quiet Black Friday

Friday, November 25, 2011 | 5:01 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — While people lined up outside big-box stores in and around the mall and shopping centers, small businesses downtown had a quieter experience on the kickoff day of the Christmas shopping season. But that was pretty much expected.

Rachel Sauter, manager of Britches Clothing, 130 S. Ninth St., said her store offered 20 percent off all items from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., trying to compete with big sales both local and chain stores were offering on Friday. Sauter said she thought the discount brought in customers, though the store's sales were about the same as any other recent Friday.

Jock's Nitch, 16 S. Ninth St., made $815 in sales by noon Friday. Derek Garrett, manager of the sporting goods store, said he'd expected more. In comparison, he said, sales have been in the thousands on game days.

My Secret Garden, 823 E. Broadway, was ready for the season with a dazzling silver glass Christmas tree in the middle of the store. A couple of shoppers were browsing Christmas decorations around noon on Friday.

"We know we can't compete with big stores," said Ruth LaHue, manager of the floral store. "We wait 'til people are generally done with their shopping at big chain stores and want to relax and find beautiful things. We wait 'til people get bored with giant, cheap things."

The only special deal at My Secret Garden on Friday was artificial roses at $12.99 a bunch, but LaHue said she was expecting a big day of sales Saturday.

There were other discounts being offered by downtown retailers.

Peggy's Gifts, 819 E. Walnut St., was offering a 30 percent discount on everything except candies, said Peggy Hurst, owner of the gift store.

Mustard Seed Fair Trade, 25 S. Ninth St., is offering 15 percent off winter wear, 10 percent off ornaments and cards and 15 percent off nativity scenes until Nov. 27.

Jessica Canfield, who works at the store, said there are advantages besides discounts for shoppers at downtown businesses.

"Small local stores have a more relaxed environment and are more friendly," she said. "We don't have the shoving."

Fred Garvin, an employee of American Shoe, 816 E. Broadway, said local businesses aren't the big players on Black Friday.

"Big stores take the weekend," he said. "We don't have much traffic today. People care more about TVs, stereos, this kind of stuff."

Christina Braatz of Envy, a clothing store at 814 E. Broadway, agreed.

"Black Friday is a bad day for small businesses as people are looking for big discounts and technology," she said.

But she added that local stores are a good choice for people who want to beat the crowd.

Megan Buechter is one of those people. She came to Poppy, 920 E. Broadway, to find a unique wedding gift with her mother. Poppy offered no discounts on Friday.

Meanwhile, Cindy Giesing, a shopper at Mustard Seed, said she was taking an "art tour" through downtown area to "support local businesses."

"They have more variety, more life here," she said. "They have more unusual and interesting stuff. It's not the same as fighting the crowd for price points."

At Blackberry Exchange, 16 S. Ninth Street, owner Laura Wilson said customers were offered a gift card that gave them double the value of what they spent. But she said the deal wasn't a Black Friday special.

She said thrift store clothing prices are already low, and her store couldn't give the same amount of discount as chain stores did.

"Downtown is not the mall," she said.

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Kate Everson November 25, 2011 | 11:38 p.m.

There is a nationwide event going on right now called "Small Business Saturday." This calls for people to spend $25 at a small business of their choice tomorrow (Saturday, Nov. 26). It seems to me that the District is the best place to shop for this great event!

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