The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

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November 23, 2012

Black Friday is here; retailers hope to cheer

Earlier openings make season’s start a gray area

MERCER COUNTY — Today is Black Friday, and retailers are hoping for some good cheer at the unofficial start of the holiday shopping season.

For a number of stores this is their biggest single day of the year, and they’re offering shoppers deep discounts on merchandise to get them in the doors. But the definition of Black Friday has gotten a little fuzzier as more stores opened on Thanksgiving this year to give themselves an extra edge.

What’s more, a number of retailers touted “Pre-Black Friday’’ sales this week to draw customers in even earlier.

And the pre-Thanksgiving secrecy of what all those great deals would be has gone by the wayside. More retailers are posting that information online weeks before Black Friday. Even if a retailer does try to keep bargains a secret, there are websites out there that post those deals, letting consumers map out a shopping strategy.

Grove City Premium Outlets held its traditional Midnight Madness sale with the official kickoff at midnight Thanksgiving night. However, this year 48 of the outlet’s stores were scheduled to open at 9 p.m. on Thanksgiving, another 35 at 10 p.m., five at 11 p.m. and the remaining 46 at midnight.

More than 20,000 people were projected to swamp Springfield Township outlet mall from Thursday night to late Friday evening, said Michele Cerwinski, assistant general manager for the outlet mall.

To accommodate the heavy overflow of cars, off-site parking in a gravel parking lot was to be thrown open with shuttle service to the mall. Tommy Hilfinger, which has a store at the mall, was offering hot chocolate, coffee or tea, plus tote bags for the first 400 shoppers.  

The outlet mall has become an international destination with Canadians pouring in by the busloads, lured by low prices and Pennsylvania’s lack of sales tax on clothing.

“All the hotels in the Grove City area are booked, and a large percentage of those are from Canada,’’ Cerwinski said. “They’re booked in at hotels in Shenango Township as well.’’

Kmart, which was among the first retailers to begin opening on Thanksgiving Day, kept that tradition alive this year with its doorbuster sales starting at 6 a.m. Thursday. Walmart’s promotions began at 8 p.m. Thursday.

For the first timem Kmart’s sister store Sears opened on Thanksgiving, with shoppers welcomed at 8 p.m.

“We’ll be open 26 hours straight,’’ said Brian Smith, manager of the Shenango Valley Mall Sears store in Hermitage.

Macy’s stores, including the one at the Shenango Valley Mall, opened at midnight Thursday.

The Shenango Valley Mall itself and most of its stores also opened at midnight. To entice shoppers, the mall offered a chance to win a $500 shopping spree. And to get customers in the mood, Jammin’ Jac’s Pizza at the mall offered shoppers breakfast sandwiches.

JCPenney stores, including the Shenango Valley Mall store, opened at 6 a.m. today. The company said it didn’t want to open Thanksgiving Day, giving its employees time with their families.

Penney’s went with an everyday low price format about a year ago and nixed sales. But the company said Black Friday would be the one day of the year where it would offer sales. Further, the company would give visitors a button with a chance to win prizes ranging from vacations to shopping sprees.   

“We have more toys this year,’’ said Ronda Boone, store manager. “We have things like Barbie and all the name brand toys where we will match competitors’ prices.”

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