Stores ready for day

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 27, 2008

NATCHEZ — After the leftovers are put away, family arguments about politics are cooled and everyone has gotten a good night’s sleep, Miss-Lou residents are expected to join with Americans everywhere Friday in stimulating the economy.

Called “Black Friday” because it is the point at which many retailers begin to turn a profit or go “in the black,” Friday is traditionally acknowledged as the busiest shopping day of the year and the unofficial beginning of the Christmas shopping season.

And for that reason Walmart bulks up with extra staff at this time of year, Natchez Walmart Manager Lionel Stepter said.

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“We always beef up our staff to make sure we have enough cashiers ready for business,” he said.

Depending on what items the store offers for sale during what Stepter called the Black Friday “blitz,” Stepter said they will see between 500 and 1,000 bargain hunters at the beginning of the sale.

“As the morning goes on, it increases,” he said.

Though the store does not close Thanksgiving Day, store associates build displays of items marked for sale on Black Friday — and then guard them until 5 a.m.

“We won’t allow the sale on the blitz items until then,” Stepter said.

But pulling off the holiest of capitalism’s holy days isn’t something that just happens — it takes months of preparation.

Belk Assistant Manager Terry Fisher said the company begins to receive stock for the season at the first of September.

“They front load it starting two months in advance to make sure you don’t have a lot of merchandise coming in so you can focus on sales (during the holiday season),” Fisher said.

Despite not having the advertising clout of larger stores, local shops are gearing up for Friday’s shopping boost as well.

At RRUS and Company in Vidalia, Owner Una Knapp said she expects shoppers to spend the early morning hours hunting for bargains in the larger department stores but that as the day progresses they will make their way to the smaller shops and boutiques.

“We are expecting a big crowd,” she said. “We have been pretty busy already.”

But like the larger stores, the smaller shops still have to have something to entice consumers to come in and buy until they exhaust their spending limits.

One way RRUS has done that is to bring in new items for the season.

“We have a lot of new merchandise just in from market,” Knapp said. “We have certain items we have been saving for Friday.”

The Friday shopping frenzy should translate into solid sales locally, Belk Manager Mary Flach said.

“I think Natchez seems to be doing better than the rest of the country right now, and we have no reason not to think we will have a great day,” Flach said.