LUMBERTON — Retailers across Robeson County are bracing for the barrage of bargain hunters on Black Friday.
Associates at the Belk store in Lumberton have spent the past three weeks prepping for the annual sales frenzy. “The hard part is done,” said Zach Treadaway, the store’s manager. “Now we just have to sit back and enjoy the rush.”
Treadaway survived three Black Fridays at the Belk store in Laurinburg before transferring to Biggs Park Mall in July. He said the Charlotte-based chain is offering “very competitive” deals this year, with deep discounts on boots, sweaters and kitchen appliances.
Black Friday has long signified the start of the holiday shopping season, when merchants can make 25 to 40 percent of their annual revenue. But Eric Dent, a business professor at Fayetteville State University who lives in Lumberton, says the day after Thanksgiving can be a “double-edged sword” for retailers.
“The positive benefit is that the special event creates focus around shopping and fosters enthusiasm,” Dent said in an email. “Moreover, the allure of getting a product at a lower price than any other time of year is very appealing.”
Coined in the early 1960s, the phrase “Black Friday” refers to how merchants rebound from months of losing money — when they’re “in the red” — and start to see profits “in the black.”
“That places a number of burdens on retailers,” Dent said. “For example, they need to be staffed at a much lower level when they are in the red. Suddenly, they need vastly more staff for a single day. How does a retailer find and train such staff? Secondly, retailers that carry far less inventory throughout the year need substantially more space to hold all of the products in advance of Black Friday.”
Dent, who writes a monthly economics column for The Robesonian, says the hassle might not justify the savings for some shoppers.
“The hunt for bragging rights about paying such a low price for a product is enticing,” he said. “Yet getting those low prices often means waiting in line for hours in the cold, being jostled by a mass of customers in the store, standing in a long checkout line and possibly getting into a violent interaction over the last Tickle Me Elmo toy.”
The word “Friday” has become a misnomer in recent years as several major department stores now open their doors on Thanksgiving. Belk, J.C. Penney, Walmart and Kmart are some of the retailers hoping to lure Robeson County residents away from their turkey-stuffed tables on Thursday.
Andy Ellen, president of the North Carolina Retail Merchant Association, says shoppers can expect stores to continue beginning their promotions on the holiday.
“Until everyone closes their doors on Thanksgiving — Amazon, eBay, movie theaters, restaurants, golf courses and others — you will see retailers make the decision to be open as well,” Ellen said. “I encourage everyone to support business in the state and recognize why stores need to be open. And then, let’s all go a step further by shopping in our community in to support the economy in North Carolina.”
The Retail Merchant Association predicts that U.S. retail sales in November and December will increase 3.7 percent over the same time last year, bringing national revenue up to $630.5 billion. Black Friday will kick off a holiday shopping season that is expected to create 755,000 temporary jobs across the country, according to the nonprofit trade association.
Although horror stories about customers getting trampled at stores on Black Friday have become a fixture of the nightly news, a recent survey shows that many shoppers enjoy the rush.
Earlier this month, electronics retailer h.h.gregg shared the results from its second annual holiday shopping survey, which was conducted in an effort to “uncover the truth about all of our holiday spending habits.” Fifty-one percent of customers who took part in the survey said they “love to experience the excitement around Black Friday sales,” up from 45 percent last year.
Check the advertisements at The Robesonian and robesonian.com to see what local retailers have in store.
Staff writer Jaymie Baxley can be reached at 910-416-5771 or by email at [email protected]