Amanda Faulkner of Soldotna loads up Christmas gifts and wrapping paper after holiday shopping at Fred Meyer in Soldotna.
Photo by Joseph Robertia
In retail circles, the day after Thanksgiving is called Black Friday. The biggest shopping day of the year got its name not because of the lines, headaches and red-eyed shoppers, but because it is the day that keeps stores in the black for the year.
According to local merchants, Black Friday carries fewer headaches on the Kenai Peninsula, and shoppers were less inclined to budge in line, but they were definitely shopping.
Nationally, the numbers were sluggish, with many merchants reporting steep declines after the early morning rush, but several area businesses reported higher sales than expected up from last year.
There were concerns that a storm in Homer would keep shoppers from traveling north, but the snow didn’t slow bargain-hunters.
“We were just tickled to death with the results,” said Ron Delany, manager of Fred Meyer in Soldotna. “They said it was almost a whiteout on the roads.”
The hottest item of the year the XBox 360 wasn’t available Friday. One week ago, the gaming consoles sold out by 7:30 a.m. Personal technology gadgets were still the best sellers, though.
Fred Meyer opened at 5 a.m. Friday for an eight-hour sale that offered half-price clothing, watches, shoes, luggage and tools along with a variety of gadgets at deep discounts.
Locally and nationally, the price of technology came down this year, with some DVD players selling for as little as $19.99. Last year, Fred Meyer sold a portable DVD player from Audiovox for $299, and it sold out during the eight-hour sale.
This year, the same item sold out at $99.
“That’s one of those things about tech it just keeps coming down,” Delany said. “Next year, we’ll probably sell it for $50.”
The expansion of the store had an added benefit this year for shoppers and employees. More space meant more merchandise, and the 100 seasonal employees Fred Meyer hires for summer and Christmas were able to keep working without a break in the fall.
Big retailers like Fred Meyer and Gottschalks that offer discounts in the early morning are usually winners, but sales that draw out shoppers benefit smaller merchants, as well.
Peter Thomson, owner of River and Sea Marine in Soldotna, did not open any earlier Friday than any other day, but he still saw an impact.
“It was a better day than we would have expected,” Thomson said.
He said he was aware the big sellers usually are plasma TVs and digital cameras, but snowmachine parts, accessories and reduced-priced winter clothing all sold better than last year.
“I think people get conditioned to the idea that they should be out spending their money on that day,” Thomson said. “It’s a very American thing to do.”
Frames and Things, a specialty framing and gift store in Soldotna, didn’t offer any discounts or specialty items Friday, but business was still up 10 percent. Manager Brian Erwin cited the number of shoppers as just one of the reasons for this year’s strong sales.
“The stock market is up, gas is going down what’s not to be happy and joyful about?” he asked.
He also pointed out that shopping in Soldotna or Kenai was decidedly less stressful than in many places.
“All the little horror stories you heard about in Anchorage didn’t happen here. It was very busy but people didn’t mind waiting an extra five minutes,” he said.
Delany, whose store had lines for the 5 a.m. opening, agreed.
“We didn’t have any stampedes. Everyone behaved themselves pretty well,” he said.
Not all businesses count the day after Thanksgiving as especially important. Many stores in the area offer holiday specials that didn’t begin or expire on Friday.
The Music Box in Soldotna is selling instruments for 20 percent off through November, and Old Town Music is handing out free cases with guitar purchases and selling electric guitar starter kits for kids through December. Old Town owner Dustin Aaronson said Black Friday isn’t usually the biggest day of the year for him.
“I don’t think our community is the traditional Black Friday community,” he said. “I think we’re kind of late starters. We notice a massive push all the way through December until a panic on the 23rd.”
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