MILLEDGEVILLE — The leisurely spent days of napping or spending time with family and guests after Thanksgiving are long gone. The new holiday tradition is Black Friday shopping.
Holiday shoppers give retailers a very happy Thanksgiving weekend as they crowd stores and malls to zero in on bargains and great deals.
Despite global economic struggles, shopping analysts predict that that this year’s Black Friday will be fruitful for retailers. According to the National Retail Federation, U.S. shoppers spent $52 billion on Black Friday weekend in 2011. An increase is expected for 2012 figures.
The unemployment rate factors into the expectations of Black Friday shopping as well. According to the Georgia Department of Labor, the state's unemployment rate for October was 8.7 percent. With the jobless rate down from 9.7 percent in October 2011, optimism for better financial conditions appears to be growing.
With Black Friday right around the corner, local retailers are getting their promotional ducks in a row. A visit to any store at Milledgeville Mall this week revealed decorations ready, sales are set and store clerks preparing their stations for the big day.
“We've been pulling out all sale merchandise and getting all displays up so that everything can look neat and orderly come Friday,” said Trudy McDonald, office specialist for J.C. Penney.
For Zena Mason, fragrance sales associate at the local Belk store, this will be her first experience with Black Friday shopping from the other side of the sales counter.
"I'm hoping there's a crowd here at Belk, but not a hostile one like what other stores have experienced in the past,” Mason said.
Mason has been diligently setting up her perfume and gift sets and making sure all promotional items have the right eye catching appeal so they can grab shoppers’ attention the moment they set foot in her area.
This year Black Friday falls on Nov. 23, which will give retailers a longer period between Black Friday and Christmas for sales.
“We expect to exceed our sales from last year,” said McDonald. “Last year our sales exceeded the previous one, and we are confident that we will see the same trend again.”
Next year, Black Friday will fall on Nov. 29, the latest possible date. This will bring about new challenges for retailers and consumers. This year should be a breeze, but next year, with Black Friday being so close to Christmas, shoppers and retailers will lose a shopping weekend.
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