Local retailers prep for Thursday’s start to Black Friday crowds

Local retailers are ready for the mobs of shoppers who will be gobbling down the turkey early to take advantage of Black Friday sales beginning Thursday.

Some retailers are expecting as much as 25 percent of their total annual sales all in one — or, now, two — days.

Black Friday actually starts on Thursday at Target on Colonnade Boulevard, said Drew Fogel, assistant manager and team leader of human resources. Doors open at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day and close at 11 p.m. on Friday.

Fogel said the store has made sure all merchandise is stocked and laid out properly, adding that items have been ordered and shipped to the store since the beginning of the month.

“We have a lot of items, especially electronics, that are usually our hottest buys each year,” Fogel said.

Fogel said he expects a line to form outside by 5 p.m. Thursday, maybe sooner.

“We’ll be busy,” he said. “We ramp up employees. This is the most team members scheduled than any other day this year.”

To keep things under control, Target staff will ask patrons to assemble a single-file line around the facility.

But for those who don’t want to wait for Black Friday to get the good deals, Walmart issued an emailed statement proclaiming sales already were unveiled last week, and the retailer doesn’t plan on closing its doors at all Thanksgiving week.

“Black Friday is our day — our Super Bowl — and we’re ready to prove once again that no one does it better than Walmart,” Bill Simon, president and CEO, said in a statement.

Walmart will offer 65 percent more inventory on televisions and double the number of tablets — some of the most popular Black Friday items.

“Black Friday has emerged into a holiday seasonal event, not just a shopping day,” Nittany Mall General Manager Lou Kanzleiter said.

While Black Friday mostly impacts larger retailers, small businesses downtown will be open during regular business hours, but may not have specific Black Friday bargains that attract the shopping crowd.

“Black Friday doesn’t generally target our kind of small businesses,” said Steve Artz, owner of Gift Adventures on East Beaver Avenue. “Trying to open in the morning, we don’t have that. It’s not a downtown early shopping day. Black Friday is typically your malls, Best Buys and other big-box stores.”

Nittany Mall, however, has finalized customer activities such as an online gaming scenario, a photo event, Santa Claus and a disc jockey who will play music from 11 p.m. Thanksgiving until 1 a.m. Friday for its Black Friday customers.

Kanzleiter said this is the first year the mall’s doors will open before midnight on Friday.

“It’s all to have a controlled shopping experience,” he said. “We’ve worked with our stores to have a universal opening time.”

Industry analysts expect about 46 percent of residents to shop on Black Friday. That’s up from 33 percent last year, said Steven Zellers, a state labor market analyst.

“The economy gets better and people get more confident in its stability,” Zellers said.

People from Centre and neighboring counties are expected to hit Nittany Mall this year, and to control the chaos, Kanzleiter said additional mall and store staff have been hired.

“Our shopping mall is designed for larger volumes,” Kanzleiter said.

He said in the stores, anywhere from five to 100 additional employees will be on hand.

At the mall, Kanzleiter said a line forms at the entrances up to a few hours before the doors actually open.

“This is certainly not uncommon to see,” he said.

For the mall, Black Friday is the largest shopping day of the season, followed by the final Saturday before Christmas, Kanzleiter said.