Holiday shoppers seek out deals

Angelica Echegoyen and Brooke Butler, both of Winchester, make Black Friday into a day to catch up over coffee and shopping at the Apple Blossom Mall in Winchester. Rachel Mahoney/Daily

WINCHESTER – Whether shoppers decided to wait in outside lines on Thanksgiving or brave the early bird crowds on Black Friday, Winchester businesses small and large saw a huge turnout for early holiday shoppers this year.

Tara McInturff, director of mall marketing & business development at the Apple Blossom Mall, said that while the mall hours on Thursday were 6 p.m. to 1 a.m., a number of individual stores remained open until the mall opened again at 6 a.m. Friday for devoted dealbusters.

“It’s been steady traffic all day long today,” she said.

Belk manager Ted Troxell said lines for the department store trailed along the outside of the mall before it opened on Thursday.

Mall shoppers hit store sales among plenty of holiday decorations and festive tunes. Kids could tick off their wish list to Santa or take a train ride, and mall staff handed out cookies and treats for that extra bit of shopping energy. At a mall-provided and decorated storefront, staff and volunteers with AIDS Response Effort offered mall customers the convenience of getting their new purchases wrapped and ready for the holidays, with all proceeds going to the nonprofit.

Sue Heavener, left, of Burlington, West Virginia, discusses her Black Friday purchases from the Apple Blossom Mall in Winchester with her daughters Dixie Heavener, center, and Judy Welch. Rachel Mahoney/Daily

Winchester residents Angelica Echegoyen and Brooke Butler made it a point to rendezvous at the mall and shop together. Having both worked in retail before, they said Friday’s early afternoon crowd and checkout lines weren’t the worst they’d seen.

“I really don’t do the Black Friday shopping, so the last time I did it was years ago,” Butler said. “We’re just kind of catching up.”

Butler said they did a lot of window shopping and deal hunting at clothing stores this year; Echegoyen said last year she was on the lookout for big ticket items like TVs. After finishing up at the mall, they said they might head out into areas like Tysons Corner to hit more shopping destinations.

For Sue Heavener and her daughters Dixie Heavener and Julie Welch – all from Burlington, West Virginia – Winchester is classically their first and closest stop for holiday shopping. Sue Heavener said they’ll go by the outlets in Leesburg and shops in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, later in the month.

Unlike those waiting in lines on Thanksgiving, Dixie Heavener said they stay at home with family all of Thursday and get a full night’s sleep in preparation for a full day of shopping.

“We didn’t do the early bird stuff because I don’t fight over stuff,” she said.

Sue Heavener said she and her daughters will probably stop by the Loudoun Street Pedestrian Mall later in the day to take advantage of the sales there.

“We like to support small business; we get the bargains here and then we get the unique stuff down there,” she said.

Black Friday last year bore the remains of an early snow, but shoppers took advantage of highs reaching into the 60s this year to peruse the outdoor mall and grab a bite to eat. Many small businesses along the walking mall were offering their own deals as part of Plaid Friday, an initiative to shop local.

Christine Patrick, owner of Winchester Book Gallery on the mall, said she saw a big crowd after the store opened early at 6 a.m., but giveaways throughout the day kept business fairly constant. Other Plaid Friday features from the shop included an afternoon book signing and both early bird and night owl sales.

“We figure we get people who want to shop early but don’t really care for the big box stores, and it’s more fun down here and relaxed,” Patrick said. “A lot of people actually this morning were like, ‘we never shop on Black Friday, we hate shopping on Black Friday, but we’ll come downtown.'”

Abija Blue owner Susan Carney said this is the third year she’s offered Plaid Friday deals on her artisan-crafted merchandise and decided there was no harm in opening a bit later at 10 a.m. this year.

“It’s pretty steady all day and you get a lot people from out of town that come in,” she said. “They’ve already hit the malls, probably – that was my theory – they’ve already hit the malls at 6, so I’m going to be open at 10.”

Carney said she’s been too busy to offer different sales at different times like she’s done in years past, but she said she’ll be encouraging more holiday shoppers later in the month by holding special sales for the 12 days leading up to Christmas.

Small businesses across Winchester and all over the Northern Shenandoah Valley will also be participating in Small Business Saturday or Shop Small Saturday. Check out a list of participating locations at http://tinyurl.com/hrxg2cr.

Contact staff writer Rachel Mahoney at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rmahoney@nvdaily.com