Area businesses: Shop local this weekend
By Emily Ford
SALISBURY — Local business leaders are cautiously optimistic about Black Friday and say they hope consumers will spend their holiday shopping dollars close to home this weekend.
Traditionally the biggest shopping day of the year, Black Friday can make or break a business. Some national chains have backed up Black Friday to Thursday and will open Thanksgiving night for the first time, hoping the jump start will give them an edge in a hyper-competitive market where consumers are counting every cent.
Friday launches a crucial three-day weekend for retailers, including Small Business Saturday and wrapping up with Cyber Monday. Black Friday traditionally contributes 20 percent to annual retail sales.
“I’m hoping folks get out and when they decide to do some shopping, they will think about Rowan County first, not head out to the big malls and the big cities,” said Bob Wright, president of the Rowan County Chamber of Commerce. “Black Friday is a nice shot in the arm to not just area merchants, but to everybody who lives here.”
Predictions vary on how many people plan to hit stores the day after Thanksgiving.
A survey by the National Retail Federation says 152 million shoppers will shop Friday, up 10.1 percent from 138 million people last year.
But a holiday shopping survey released by Accenture, a global management consulting company, says 44 percent of Americans plan to shop on Black Friday, down from 47 percent in 2010 and 52 percent in 2009.
Downtown Salisbury Inc. will kick off the weekend and lure shoppers with Holiday Night Out, starting at 5 p.m. Friday.
“Black Friday can be huge for businesses,” said Betz McKeown, special projects manager for Downtown Salisbury Inc. “It really helps tide them over through the leaner times.”
McKeown said consumers have pent-up demand after holding back for several holiday seasons, and downtown merchants are optimistic about sales this weekend.
“I think people will spend more,” she said. “People are more used to having their belts tighter, and they have a clearer idea this year of how much they can spend.”
Since the Great Recession, consumers haven’t been sure how holiday spending would affect their bottom line, McKeown said. But people are growing more accustomed to the new normal of the American economy and better understand what they can afford, she said.
“I hope folks will spend some money, to the extent they can without racking up big credit card debt,” Wright said. “The projections are that it could be a good, decent Christmas, based on the revised economy.”
Target plans to open earlier than ever, at 12:01 a.m. Friday. Other retailers are backing up their hours, too. Walmart will open at 10 p.m. Thursday, Toys ‘R Us at 9 p.m. and Macy’s and Best Buy at midnight.
Target has seen a backlash, as employees deliver bagfuls of petitions to Target’s headquarters in Minneapolis, Minn., and hundreds of Target customers complain about “Black Thursday” on the company’s Facebook page.
Kohl’s will open nationwide, including the Salisbury store, at 12 a.m. Friday and stay open for 24 hours. For the first time, Kohl’s shoppers can earn $15 Kohl’s Cash for every $50 spent online or in-store, with no earn limit, from today through Sunday.
Calling this the biggest Black Friday event yet, JCPenney will open at 4 a.m. with doorbuster specials until 1 p.m. Saturday.
Downtown, many stores will offer specials on Friday. Both Caniche, 200 S. Main St., and Queen’s, 221 S. Main St., will reward 25 customers who spend at least $25.
Caniche will give away a free market tote with embroidery starting at 10 a.m., and Queen’s will hand out a free Vera Bradley card holder with $10 Queen’s gift card starting at 5 p.m.
The Better Business Bureau advises people to shop at smaller stores as part of an effort called Small Business Saturday.
“Small businesses have great deals, too, but usually do not have the advertising dollars to spend promoting their sales like the major retail chain stores do,” Better Business Bureau President Tom Bartholomy said in a press release.
Small businesses also are less crowded than bigger stores and may offer specialty items or one-of-a-kind gifts that people can’t find in larger stores, Bartholomy said.
Downtown Salisbury has embraced a campaign called shiftyourshopping.org , which represents more than 38,000 businesses across the U.S. and Canada. McKeown said the movement is gaining traction and encourages people to take job creation and economic concerns into their own hands by exercising their power to strengthen their own local economies.
“As customers, we are about to collectively spend a large portion of our annual shopping budget between Nov. 1 and Dec. 31,” according to the shiftyourshopping. org website. “If you join us in shifting those dollars to locally owned, independent businesses, we’ll all generate two-to-three times as much economic activity in our community than if we had spent our money at a national chain.”
Wright said the chamber supports initiatives that encourage the shop-local movement.
“Think about smaller merchants, the ones whose owners reside in town,” he said. “They are the ones who put their money back into the local community. Spend your money there and let it turn over and over.”
Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.