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Holiday shopping begins a day early for some businesses

Nov 23, 2012 - By Katie Roenigk, Staff Writer

Black Friday came early to Riverton this year, with several stores welcoming customers on Thanksgiving instead of waiting for the busiest shopping day of the season.

Kmart manager Bruce Lofthus said he was "off the charts busy" Thursday, especially in the evening when the store opened for a sale at 8 p.m.

"We had like 200 people outside the door," Lofthus said, adding that he also was open between 6 a.m. and 4 p.m. Thanksgiving. "It was a little bit difficult operationally with the transition ... but obviously it paid off."

This was the first sale Kmart has had on Thanksgiving evening, but Lofthus guessed the corporation would continue to pursue the idea in the future based on the success experienced this year.

"It's going to be Black Thursday," he joked.

The aisles were less crowded when Kmart opened at 5 a.m. Friday, though Lofthus said more people were showing up by mid-morning.

"That isn't the normal trend for Black Friday," he added, explaining that people usually fill the aisles early, then go home for a break.

Bealls had a Thanksgiving Day special too, and store manager Mandy Long said it was a popular promotion. The business was open from 8 p.m. to midnight, and Long said Bealls was "packed" during that time.

"Today is a little bit slower," she said Friday. "There were a few (people). Not as many as last night."

She opened her doors at 6 a.m. Friday, two hours after Sears. Employees at the hometown store said numbers were down Friday, with only a handful of customers waiting for the 4 a.m. opening compared to the traditional crowd.

There were fewer people then usual waiting for Radiophare to open at 6 a.m. Friday too, but sales associate Jeff Futter thought business was still "pretty good" for the day.

Small Business Saturday

Berry Patch owner Michelle Dolbow said she usually sees the most Black Friday customers in the afternoon. She guessed they come to visit her store later in the day after resting up from a morning of shopping.

"We open at 10 a.m. -- we don't do all those crazy sales like everyone," Dolbow said. "We get busy after (customers) go home and have their coffee. ... Then we get hit."

The Saturday after Thanksgiving has become more important for Dolbow, who said the nationwide push to celebrate Small Business Saturdays has had an impact.

"It's opened people's eyes a lot more," Dolbow said. "They kind of hit the big bulk sales on Friday, then make the rounds on Saturday. ... We're just getting ready for them."

Jerry Kintzler, owner of Jerry's Flowers & Things, doesn't see a lot of business on Black Friday, either. He said people will shop at his store later in the year.

"Next week will be our big week," he said. "The community has always supported us in the past. ... You have to wait for them to come look for the unique gifts here."

He did have a big sale Wednesday, when Kintzler said he was more busy than he anticipated.

"It was more like Black Friday for us than today," Kintzler said. "That's not always been the case."

The pre-Thanksgiving sale at Ace Hardware didn't go as well as Kintzler's.

"We didn't do badly, but we weren't near as busy as we expected it to be," cashier Jan Desmond said. "They weren't taking the bait I guess."

She added that Black Friday seemed like a success, because she had been busy since the store opened at 7 a.m.

"At this point our sales are looking very well for this morning," Desmond said. "It's been steady all morning."

Employees at Rocky Mountain Sport said their Black Friday also was going forward as usual.

"As soon as we unlocked the doors people started filing in," cashier Christina Graham said. "We opened at 8 a.m., and our parking lot was filling up pretty fast."

Managers at Walmart were not allowed to comment.

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