Black Friday is one of the biggest days of the year for retailers. Many stores have changed their plans this year in reaction to the slow economy -- some even opened on Thanksgiving Day. But the real crunch comes at an early hour on the day after.
University Mall and its retail outlets opened bright and early at 4 a.m. A constant stream of shoppers walked into Sears, many heading for the appliance floor and scoring items ranging from washers and dryers to digital TVs.
But the plain fact is that most people have less to spend on the holidays this year, although merchants we spoke with say the local economy is better than many other places around the country.
At Apple Mountain in downtown Burlington, owner Marie Bouffard was decorating for the upcoming holidays before Thanksgiving. She expects plenty of customers, but not many shoppers who are willing to drop a lot of money right now. "I think what's going to happen this Christmas is people are going to shop but they're going to be looking for lower ticket prices," she told WCAX News.
She's confident that her specialty, Vermont-made products, will make Black Friday a good day -- if not a spectacular day. She continued, "Last year was a tough year too, remember, because we had just gone into the whole economic crisis. So I'm not expecting this year to be worse. I'm thinking it's going to be pretty comparable to last year. But I do think that personally, we have really shifted our buying. And we're buying items that retail for under fifty dollars. That's been our focus, to just really bring that price point down."
Perrywinkles jewelers also expects less than record-setting holiday sales. But top of the line Rolex watches displayed at one counter are more of a once in a lifetime purchase for most people. And some of them will sell, thanks to the regional economy which remains better than most places. "I think it's going to be a better season than last year," Perry Sporn said, "maybe not as good as it had been in 2007, 2006. But it'll be better than last year, because last year there was a very high level of fear. We had financial institutions that were icons that were crumbling."
Some retailers are finding a way around the recession. For instance, the owner at After Midnight jewelers at the U Mall says he focuses on repairs and remounts. If people aren't buying new, they're fixing what they already have.
Aside from the economy itself, many if not most retailers are trying new strategies to bring customers, such as discounts that started well before Thanksgiving.
In contrast to a common perception that Black Friday brings a lot of pushing and shoving, the shoppers at Universit6y Mall seemed to have a good time of it -- on Black Friday.
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