Black Friday sees more shoppers than last year

Black Friday shopping traffic was heavy at many area stores, including the Apple Blossom Mall in Winchester. Henry Culvyhouse/Daily

WINCHESTER — Despite stores opening as early as Thanksgiving evening, shoppers still came in droves to area retail establishments on Black Friday, competing with one another for bargains and parking spaces.

Following suit with the national trend to open on Thanksgiving, the Apple Blossom Mall in Winchester opened at 6 p.m., two hours earlier than last year. According to Larry Nelson, mall manager, it got very busy around 11 p.m.

“It was as packed as I’ve ever seen it in this mall,” Nelson said. “But this morning, it’s been a light crowd, a very different Black Friday.”

Nelson said while many shops closed at 1 a.m. and reopened at 6 a.m., about 25 stores stayed open all night long. He said the shift from Black Friday to opening Thursday evening has changed shopping habits, with the late-night shoppers coming back out in the afternoon, after catching some sleep.

According to Nelson, while he acknowledges there have been reports of retail workers being upset about working on Thanksgiving, he saw no discontent among employees at his mall.

“The people who were working last night seemed genuinely happy,” Nelson said. “If you’re in retail, it’s a fun time when it’s busy. We open the doors and there are hundreds of people waiting to come in. This is why we open, because the public wants to shop.”

“You know, we’re just one industry open on Thanksgiving,” Nelson added. “Hotels and gas stations and are open, too. Everybody works, but retail never did. I guess it’s a culture shock for some folks, but really retail is joining a list of industries who work on Thanksgiving.”

Although there was no trampling or fistfights at the mall this year, Nelson said crowds do seem calmer than years past.

“Retailers are stretching out their sales, they’re not having these Black Friday sales where once they sell it, it’s gone,” Nelson said. “So crowds aren’t running through the doors, they’re more laid back this year.”

According to Nelson, he does not know if Black Friday will be replaced by Thanksgiving Day sales, but he doubts the trend for earlier openings will change.

“I can’t see us going back because once it’s been so successful, I don’t see the paradigm shifting back,” Nelson said.

While Nelson said he will not how know well the mall did this year until Monday’s sales figures come in, he does think this year’s holiday shopping season will be better than last due to greater consumer confidence in the economy.

Most shoppers carried bags with a smile on their face. Roger Wriggleman, of Moorefield, West Virginia was not one of them.

“It’s terrible, terrible, terrible,” Wriggleman said. “There are too many people here. I’m not a crowd guy. If it weren’t for the snow on the ground, I’d be up in my tree stand, hunting.”

After a moment, Wriggleman added, “But I guess if you like shopping, it’s been a good day. My wife is enjoying herself.”

Across town, in Old Town, Plaid Friday was ramping up, with shoppers perusing shops, stopping by cafes for a bite and visiting museums. Most shops in Old Town opened at 6 a.m. Friday.

Plaid Friday is an alternative shopping day, where consumers are encouraged to wear plaid and support local businesses. Charlie Fish, owner of Murphy’s Beverage Company, a beer and wine store, said her business opened to a large crowd of people at 6 a.m.

Fish said this year was a little different than last year’s Plaid Friday.

“In year’s past, usually after the first rush it would be done by 7 a.m.,” Fish said. “This year, it’s been steady all day long.”

According to Fish, the Thanksgiving opening times at large retail stores have affected consumer behavior.

“It does effect us,” Fish said. “Before, people would come here after shopping early in the morning. Now they’re out at 9 p.m., they go home, they sleep and they may not come back out.”

Down the street, at Incredible Flying Objects, a toy store, owner Drew Van Laeken decided to open at 9 a.m. Van Laeken said business was steady and better than last year.

“For our store, a lot of people come to buy stocking stuffers,” Van Laeken said. “People go to Walmart to get their big screen TVs, then they come here for the little toys.”

Over in Front Royal, while the big box stores were bringing in business, the small businesses were having moderate success. Barb Dunmire, owner of Ole Timer’s Antiques, said business was slow Friday.

“It’s been slim pickings, maybe we’ve had one or two groups of customers come in,” Dunmire said. “We hope it picks up for Small Business Saturday.”

Sharon Tharpe, a sales associate at Royal Oak Bookshop, said business was pretty typical for Friday.

“It’s been busy, it’s been steady,” Tharpe said. “Usually Saturday is our big day.”

In Strasburg, Sally Rutherford, owner of the Strasburg Flea Market, said while the day had a slow start, business was booming.

“It’s probably one of the better Black Fridays I’ve had, just steady and busy,” Rutherford said. “People come here because they’re looking for something special, something one of a kind.”

In Mount Jackson, Ed Delawder, owner of the Mount Jackson Thrift and Gift Store, reported Black Friday was just another Friday for him.

“We’re in a small town, we don’t have much going on,” Delawder said. “People don’t come rushing here like they do Walmart.”

Down the road in Woodstock, Cindy Spooner, owner of Three French Hens, said business was good.

“It’s been pretty steady, people are coming in buying a mixture of things,” Spooner said.

Farther south in Edinburg, Matt Burgwald of ETS Hobby Shop, a shop specializing in RC cars and trucks, said he had “quite a few customers” Friday. He said the earlier opening times of big box stores did not affect his business.

“I think the big box stores are shooting themselves in the foot because now people are going out, blowing their shopping budget earlier, leaving them with a weekend of little business,” Burgwald said.

In New Market, Cindy Miller, owner of Simple Tymes, reported the shop was busy, mostly from customers purchasing Christmas decorations.

Contact staff writer Henry Culvyhouse at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or hculvyhouse@nvdaily.com