Die-hard shoppers will be out of bed Friday before the sun comes up for one of the biggest shopping days of the year, and retailers are ready for the arrival of the masses.
The day after Thanksgiving is known as Black Friday in the retail business — traditionally regarded as the day when the retailer’s balance sheet goes from red to black. Last year it was the biggest holiday shopping day of the year, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers.
Early openings, sales and prizes await customers looking to get their Christmas shopping done almost a month before the gifts are torn open.
MasterCard International, however, tracked transaction data from previous years and found that procrastinators make late December the busiest time.
Michael Manchisi, senior vice president of MasterCard International, whose data office is based in suburban St. Louis, said, “Typically, at MasterCard, we have processed nearly 33 million transactions on each of the two Saturdays before Christmas — almost a million more than on the day after Thanksgiving.”
Columbia Mall will open at 7 a.m. Friday, and some stores will open even earlier. J.C. Penney will have the earliest opening in the mall, at 5:30 a.m., a half-hour earlier than last year. By noon, the store expects to have rung up 70 percent of the day’s sales, manager Royce Bervig said. The department store hired an additional 70 employees and has added registers to help handle what they hope will be a crush of customers.
“All the preparations have already been done,” Bervig said. “We’re ready to go.”
Sears has been stocking since September to have all the sales goods on hand by Friday. Store manager Mark Howard said there are 50 to 60 additional employees ready for the 6 a.m. opening and the crowds.
“With more than double the number of early morning specials (than last year), we expect it to be really busy early,” he said.
Famous Barr will offer gift cards to the first 300 customers after opening at 6 a.m. Helen Weiss, director of public relations for Famous Barr, said last year, people were lining up before 5 a.m. at one location to receive a gift card.
“We are prepared,” Weiss said. “It’s a very exciting day for us.”
Katie Essing, group director for Columbia Mall, said the day after Thanksgiving is one of the bigger shopping days, but Saturdays in December are usually even busier.
The mall will have giveaways from 7 to 9 a.m., and greeters will provide shoppers with coupons for the promotions at different stores, Essing said.
Other stores opening early around town include Toys “R” Us at 5 a.m. and Target, Best Buy and Circuit City at 6 a.m.
The National Retail Foundation has projected holiday sales to be 4.5 percent higher than in 2003, when holiday sales grew 5.1 percent, the largest increase since 1999. If the projection is accurate, this will mean close to $220 billion in holiday sales. The sales in November and December represented 22.8 percent of retailers’ annual sales last year.
MasterCard is projecting the Thursday before Christmas (Dec. 23) as this year’s big day.
“If possible, we advise people to do their shopping on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays,” Manchisi said.
— The Associated Press
contributed to this report.