For hardcore shoppers, this is the most wonderful time of the year.
Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, has emerged almost as a holiday in its own right. But it’s a test of fortitude, too.
If you’re planning on joining the retail stampede, here’s some survival advice from folks in the know:
• Be cooperative. “Share your list with the friend you go with,” said Becky Lynch Toivonen, an avid shopper from Newport, Minn. “Then text each other when you pick up an item off the other’s list.”
• Plan ahead. “You can’t try anything on. If you want something, you have to know what you want,” said Mia Grimme, of Rochester. A good idea would be to try on styles before the big day to know your size in the brand of your choice.
• Be realistic. “Don’t go out shopping the ads with an attitude of, ‘If I don’t get this item it’s going to ruin Christmas,” said Deanna Jestus, of Byron. “Have fun with the experience. Realize the stores might run out of what you want. If you’re getting upset, take a break. These deals are not worth fights, and sometimes you get better deals after Black Friday.”
Don’t forget — the busy retailers are staffed by underslept, harried human beings, too.
“Few customers understand that the people that are there serving them — what do those employees give up to take care of them?” said Kevin Pike, former manager of a Rochester electronics retailer.
Apache Mall starts gearing up early for its 6 p.m. opening today.
“Last year, we opened at midnight (Friday) and we were extremely busy,” said Eric Ofori-Atta, general manager at Macy’s. “We’ve never been open on Thanksgiving before. This is all new, so we’ll see what happens.”
Target’s experience last year with an 8 p.m. opening was a “great turnout,” said Meghan Cushing, store spokeswoman. Target opens at 6 p.m. this Thanksgiving.
Herberger’s opens at 6 p.m. today with a gift card giveaway to the first 200 customers in line at its west entrance, said store manager Julie Trumble. Those gift cards will range in value from $5 to $250.
With some 600 “doorbuster” deals, Herberger’s will stay open for 28 hours, closing at 10 p.m. Friday, before opening again with still more doorbusters at 6 a.m. Saturday.
Costco, meanwhile, waits for Friday to open, and only one hour earlier than a normal day.
“Sure, it’s busy, and sure, we offer great savings, however we do not promote Black Friday by advertising,” said store manager Jay Yang. “We rely on word of mouth and low prices and great service on a consistent basis.”
Some shoppers may prefer to skip the big box retailers this year. For them, Rochester has proclaimed this Saturday “Small Business Saturday.”
The family-friendly event downtown will include the traditional rescue of Santa Claus from the roof of Old City Hall, free trolley rides from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., and readings by Santa in the Shops at University Square.
Downtown merchants will offer special deals and rewards on Saturday. The Nordic Shop, for example, will give a free hat with the purchase of a sweater on Saturday. Next door, at Collections, a free scarf accompanies a $50 purchase.
Knight’s Chamber will give novelty socks with the purchases up to $100. Get two pairs for purchases between $100 and $200. And add a free pair of Saxx underwear for purchases over $200.
Go online, www.downtownrochestermn.com/sbs, for a full schedule of events and more information.
Pike, the former electronics store manager, plans to see Black Friday this year from the consumer’s side, though he hasn’t decided yet where he’ll go shop.
Others will skip it altogether.
“It’s much, much warmer in my bed at that point in the day,” said Chris Holt. “The warmth-to-motivation factor clearly sides with warmth before dawn.”
Alexis Simmons, owner of Rodan + Fields Dermatologists, will have a higher purpose than shopping on Friday.
“I’m boycotting it and showing my gratitude by volunteering with the Festival of Trees,” she said. “Better to give at Thanksgiving than to receive, in my opinion.”
But you can shop and give at the same time, too.
While you’re cashing in on great deals at Apache Mall, find items you’d like to give to less fortunate families and leave them under the Sharing Tree in J. C. Penney Court. The Salvation Army collects those unwrapped toys and distributes them to needy recipients.
“Typically we receive a lot of toys for the middle ages, but tend to receive fewer items for infants and teenagers,” said Haley Earley, community engagement assistant for the Salvation Army.
“It’s a lot of fun when our donors get creative and provide unique options for the Toy & Joy Shop. We want the donors to have fun with this process, too. When shopping, it’s a great opportunity to explore what kids of all ages are hoping for this holiday season. It’s also a great way to get kids involved in the donating process; what would they hope to receive and can now share that experience with someone else?”