Thanksgiving opening siphons off some sales

by: Photo by Holly M. Gill - The city of Madras is all lit up for the beginning of the holiday season.

   Even with a few of Central Oregon's largest retailers opening on Thanksgiving to start their big seasonal sales, several local businesses still saw strong sales on Black Friday.
   Outside the Madras Bi-Mart, customers were lined up for the 5 a.m. opening on Nov. 23, according to Doris Boyd, store manager.
   "I was happy to see people," she said. "We had a great day -- better than last year; we stayed steady all day."
   At the discount department store, located on Southwest Highway 97, which "sells the basics," Boyd said, "We tried to have plenty of everything on hand. Electronics are always popular. Carts were full."
   "Every year, we do better than the year before, and you can't ask for more than that," she said, noting that it was the start of a good weekend.
   Sears, at 507 S.W. Fifth St., has also seen an uptick in business this year. "We had a great day," said Jodi Wills, who delivers merchandise for the business. "We were up from last year quite a bit."
   After opening early at 4 a.m., she said, "We had three people working constantly and people waiting in line."
   "We've been busy since the day before Thanksgiving," said Wills. "We had sales on washers and dryers and refrigerators, and lots and lots of tools."
   Next door, Apparel Express, was busy with a going-out-of-business sale. "People were coming in and taking advantage of the 20 percent off," said Wills.
   Ralph's Furniture and TV, at 525 S.E. Fifth St., kept its normal hours, but had a good response to its storewide sale.
   "We've had great foot traffic and sales since the holiday season started," said Annie Cleem, adding that sales were better than last year.
   "We sold a little bit of everything, across the board: appliances, electronics, upholstery, mattresses and bedroom furniture," she said.
   Not every business reported brisk sales on Black Friday. At The Outpost, 717 S.W. Fifth St., co-owner Christy Abbe said that they opened for their regular hours -- 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. -- and had an "OK" day.
   "We were about the same as last year -- only slightly up," she said. "We had our toy sale going, that we always do at this time of year, and were selling a lot of toys."
   Although since 1941, Thanksgiving has officially been held on the fourth Thursday of the month, this year, it fell on the earliest possible day -- Nov. 22 -- which Abbe felt may have influenced shoppers.
   "I think there are a lot of people that are last-minute (shoppers), so we haven't seen that," she said. "If it's later in the month, it's closer to payday."
   Phil's Ace Hardware, at 13 S.W. H St., opened at 7 a.m. on Black Friday, but didn't see the line of customers from a couple years ago.
   "For the weekend, we were down over last year," said owner Phil Dale. "Everybody went to Redmond and Bend. With Target and WalMart open on Thursday, the weekend overall was slower than usual."
   According to Julie Brown, the hottest items were an advertised pot and pan set, and a Dremel tool set, both of which sold out, and "a lot of Christmas lights sold."
   Joy Stephens, who owns Above and Beyond Home Furnishings and Design Center with her husband, Dave, said it was "very slow" this year at their new location at 1435 S.W. Highway 97.
   "It was a quiet day," she said. "Saturday was abnormally quiet. It was not the weekend we had last year; we just didn't see the traffic."
   ShopperTrak, which analyzes retail foot traffic across the country, reported that overall, foot traffic rose 3.5 percent nationwide, but in the West, dropped 11.3 percent.
   Despite the average increase in foot traffic, retail sales were down about 1.8 percent on Black Friday, which the tracking service attributed to stores opening on Thanksgiving day and attracting some of sales that would normally have occurred the following day.
   The National Retail Federation predicts that the holiday season will see an increase in sales of 4.1 percent -- up slightly from the 10-year average increase of 3.5 percent.
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