Big box stores trounce local businesses on Black Friday

Black Friday shoppers stand in line at Rural King at 465 South Street, Front Royal.

Annual deal-seekers flocked to Wal-Mart, Target and other big box stores Thanksgiving evening, six hours before calendars turned to Black Friday. Local businesses, on the other hand, rarely opened before 10 a.m. Friday, and saw only thin trickles of customers coming in.

“Not much business today,” said Madan Thappa, owner of Easy 4 Busy Convenience Store and Gift Shop in Front Royal. “We don’t get a lot of business around here on Black Friday.”

“People are buying online and going to the big box stores. Every year it’s a little less business,” said Jay Narron, whose wife owns Antiques on Main Street in Front Royal.

Jenny Utley, owner of Fashion Trendz on Main Street in Woodstock, noticed no uptick in sales during the day, despite advertising a 10 percent storewide discount. “It’s slow,” she said.

“Now Black Friday is not as big a deal, because Wal-Mart does Black Thursday and others were doing pre-Black Friday (on the) first of the month,” said Richard Finks, owner of Finks Jewelers. “Black Friday is spread out. It’s not the killer day it used to be.”

For some businesses, the lackluster Black Friday sales represent a lost opportunity. For others, that overstock in anticipation of a busy day, it can come as a blow.

Barry Ligas, store manager of True Value on Royal Avenue in Front Royal, ordered large amounts of inventory and increased the number of employees on the clock.

“My previous Black Fridays working, we were slammed all day long … Today, no good. It’s been slow,” Ligas said. “We were hoping for a good Black Friday, and we’ve got cases and cases of stuff up there still, and it’s usually gone.”

True Value, a national hardware chain, is made up of independent retail hardware stores.

On the other side of town, Rural King on South Street raked in the business. The farming, home goods and hunting retailer had a steady stream of customers in and out for most of the day.

Assistant store manager Krystina Wilson believes that customer service and product pricing were Rural King’s difference-makers.

“We have really good prices on the merchandise we have in the store, and the employees are just awesome, so a lot of the customers are on a first-name basis,” Wilson said. “Business is going really well today.”

Wilson doesn’t credit advertising for the boon of customers, either.  Rural King didn’t distribute the paper version of its Black Friday deals until Thanksgiving Day. (The online version was available a week before that.)

For smaller businesses, investing in advertising isn’t always an option.

Liz Pasqualucci, partner of Mountain Trails in Front Royal, said that the store is dependent on social media and word-of-mouth. The company has ventured into advertisements in the past, but they “don’t seem to have created a lot of movement for us,” she said.

Mountain Trails launched its Front Royal location just two weeks ago, and like many local businesses, it is banking on Small Business Saturday to boost sales.

“The two biggest days of our year are Black Friday and the shop small Saturday,” Pasqualucci said. “These two days are, historically, our two biggest sales days.”

Narron, from Antiques on Main Street, echoed her sentiment.

“I’m hopeful tomorrow will be better — Saturday’s usually our best day,” he said.

Wal-Mart declined to comment on this article, but a press release on the company website stated  the national corporation sold “tens of millions” of televisions, video game consoles, movies and toys and turkeys to “millions of customers.”