Through a combination of an improving economy, starting Black Friday earlier and the moving of the Iron Bowl back to Saturday, area retailers are expecting one of the better holiday shopping seasons in recent years.
“We expect it to be a lot busier this year,” said Mike Manos, operations manager for Wakefield’s Inc., which operates the Martin’s Family Clothing and Wakefield’s stores in Anniston and Oxford. “We look for it to be an extremely good day for everyone.”
Manos said the Wakefield’s and Martin’s stores would open at 5 a.m. Friday.
“That’s our normal after-Thanksgiving time,” he said.
He said the Wakefield’s and Martin’s stores would all have special deals and coupons on many quality items, including North Face jackets.
Manos said the Iron Bowl, the annual college football game between the University of Alabama and Auburn University which fell on the Friday after Thanksgiving the last two years, cut into his stores’ profits –- a phenomenon that affected most retailers across the state. The Friday after Thanksgiving is typically one of the most profitable days of the year for retailers and the day when many of them can shift their accounting books from the red into the black, Manos said.
“Thank goodness the Iron Bowl being played on Saturday this year,” Manos said with a laugh.
Nancy King Dennis, director of public relations for the Alabama Retail Association, said retailers across the state are excited about the upcoming shopping holiday, particularly because the Iron Bowl is back to Saturday.
“The last two years, many shoppers would go early then go home to watch the game and it would just be dead throughout the rest of the day,” Dennis said. “Retailers are very happy to have their Black Friday back.”
Dennis said improvements in the overall economy the past year also have retailers excited. She said according to Alabama Retail Association statistics, retail sales in the state have been up about 3.5 percent each month for the past 20 months compared to the preceding 20 months.
“We expect that to continue,” Dennis said. “We expect Alabamians to spend between $275 million and $300 million in November and December this year.”
She noted that many retail chains have opted to capitalize as much as possible on the improving economy by starting their Black Friday sales late Thursday night.
“They’re responding to a group of consumers that say they would rather stay up late and shop than get up earlier and shop,” Dennis said.
Brooke McCulley, marketing director for the Quintard Mall in Oxford, said many of the mall’s major retailers would open at midnight after Thanksgiving for the first time this year.
“We had one store come to us and ask if they could open at midnight and so we then offered the option to all our tenants,” McCulley said. “We’re thankful the stores opening on midnight are many of the major chains.”
Stores opening midnight at the mall include American Eagle Outfitters, Bath and Body Works, Game Stop, the Gap, Rue 21, Victoria’s Secret and Toys R Us. Other stores will open at 4 a.m., including JC Penny, Kirkland’s and Sears. Other stores will open later that day.
McCulley said mall tenants were anticipating strong sales this year.
“A lot of tenants are expecting good crowds on Friday,” she said.
Contact staff writer Patrick McCreless at 256-235-3561.