Local shoppers flock to stores in search of bargains

Friday, November 24, 2006
A cashier at Goody's in Sikeston checks out some customers.

SIKESTON -- A flurry of activity in the parking lots and inside Sikeston stores by 6 a.m. and earlier and continuing through the day can only mean one thing: it's Black Friday.

Young and old came out for the deals, some with family and friends and others solo, some first-time shoppers and others veterans with years of experience.

"This makes about my eighth or ninth year," Curtis Meritt of Sikeston said of the early morning shopping the day after Thanksgiving. He and his wife usually shop together for Christmas presents for their children.

"Everything is on sale," he said. This year, they arrived at Wal-Mart around 4 a.m. in pursuit of Hot Wheels and Bratz dolls -- no big items such as TVs, DVD players or other steals caught their attention, he said.

Known as "Black Friday" today is the unofficial start of the holiday shopping season and one of the busiest shopping days of the year. According to legend, the name comes from common accounting practices that use black ink to show positive amounts, and Black Friday is the end of a period of losses and beginning of the profits.

Wanda Williamson of Sikeston is another shopper who was out this morning, a tradition for her. She had her eye on a 52-inch television at Wal-Mart. "I didn't get it," she said. "Some people camped out all night."

She later went to Goody's, where she shopped for clothes and other gifts for her family. "After this, I'm going back home and going to bed," she said.

For stores, there are several preparations for the day, but Jamie Jackson, store manager at Orscheln, named two that are key.

"The biggest thing is getting the items in the ads stacked in bulk quantities in the store so they are visible and accessible," he said.

Additionally, staffing is a must. "We want plenty of people on the sales floor to assist the customers as they come in," Jackson said. All 15 of the employees are scheduled to work today -- only seven or eight would work on a typical Friday.

Jackson said Orscheln tries to make the shopping experience fun for everyone, with food for employees and in-store giveaways for shoppers. "We'll have more of a one-on-one interaction with the customers," he said. This year, J.C. Penney started its sale a day early, with several after-

Thanksgiving prices available Wednesday.

"We've done that in years past," said Bill Dickherber, store manager. "It helps out because it's such an early morning and a lot of the stuff already has signs."

J.C. Penney opened at 5 a.m., but employees were there as early as 4 a.m. to put on the final touches. To entice shoppers, the store always gives away snow globes. Other sales, such as on clothing, and this year on a 1/3 carat diamond pendants also encourage shoppers to make that store first on their list.

With huge "doorbusters" and "early-bird specials," it's no surprise the mornings are filled with activity at all the stores. "Our busiest hours are before noon," Dickherber said. "But it's strong all day."

Goody's also enticed shoppers with deals and rewards. Laptop learning computers for children marked at $14.99 and $9.99 jackets encouraged shoppers to come to Goody's in the early morning hours. Additionally, the first 300 shoppers were awarded a $10 gift card with a $20 purchase.

Deals at Orscheln include $19.99 bib overalls, curio cabinets for $49.99 and tools marked down close to 50 percent. "We've pretty much hit every product line that we sell," Jackson said.

And all the deals draw people in droves, making Black Friday one of, if not the biggest, sales day of the year.

"It is our single biggest day of the year," Dickherber said.

Jackson agreed: "We look to have the biggest day sales-wise that we've had since the store has been open."

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