I recognized the young couple chatting over lunch at Wendy’s. Both leaning back with slumped shoulders and dressed in the uniform of a large national retailer, they were obviously taking a desperately needed break.
I asked them how things were going. They looked at each other and grimly answered, “Black Friday.”
Their sentiments of dread made me wonder, do we consider all that goes into the holiday shopping season for the businesses we depend upon?
For our local branches of national chains, management and employees work extra hours for several weeks leading up to Black Friday. Then they face long lines of anxious customers on the big day. It is a lot of work.
“It’s mainly about corporate sending so much extra product expecting to sell certain quantities,” said the young lady mentioned previously. “We have to move whole departments to find places to put it all. Then, there is a lot of frustration when we have limited amounts of what customers want. We just hope shoppers remember most employees don’t control what we have in stock. We are doing our best to get through the holidays, too. We just hope people will be patient with us.”
For locally grown businesses, Black Friday takes more than a few weeks of coordination with corporate. Al’s Sporting Goods CEO Kris Larsen said he isn’t only preparing for this holiday season, but for next. “Believe it or not, we have already begun buying for Black Friday for next year. We have a gigantic warehouse in Hyde Park, and it’s loaded with merchandise for our stores. On Black Friday we will be, all day long, sending semis to Logan and Orem just for replenishment.”
Larsen and his team focus much of their Black Friday effort on having hot products in stock and keeping lines moving. “If we put something in an ad, its not going to be like we have six and if you’re lucky you get one. We have lots and lots — hopefully enough to last the weekend,” Larsen said.
“Black Friday at Al’s is big family tradition for a lot of people,” he continued. “We will have literally thousands of people in our stores. We do everything we can to alleviate the time people spend in line. We have tripled our registers over the last few years. ”
Though Black Friday is a big deal for many businesses, others avoid it entirely. Abbey Jo Allred, re-ordering manager at The Book Table, said they opt out.
“It’s not even worth it for us to hold a Black Friday — competing isn’t really practical,” Allred said. Instead The Book Table puts on its own special sale. “We call it ‘Midnight Madness’,” explained Allred. “We do it the first week of December – an overnight sale where we keep our store open until midnight, and during that time the whole store goes on sale 20% off with some other special deals. … It pretty much makes it our biggest sales night of the year; biggest profit and it’s our busiest night.”
Sales are not the only thing that ticks up for local businesses during the holidays. Cache Valley companies increase donations of products and services to nonprofits around Christmas. “You don’t see Amazon doing that,” said The Sportsman’s co-owner Mark Fjeldsted.
Fjeldsted made the observation that holiday dollars spent at local retailers circulate throughout the community. Not only do the taxes pay for our roads and schools, but the profits pay for jobs and donations citizens count on.
“Dollars spent with online retailers leave our valley and never come back,” Fjeldsted said. “Our hope, along with all the other local businesses, is that people give us a shot. We hope people will give local business a chance at providing whatever it is they need.”
Owner of The Spirit Goat soaps and lotions Deadra Outsen said local businesses not only help the community, they help each other. “We are a local company and we try to support as local as we can. We try to purchase local, and when we can, we do,” she said.
Outsen added that local companies truly appreciate their customers. “We never have crabby, mean, nasty customers. We have nice, amazing customers. ... The sale we have will be for our Shop Small Saturday. We are doing 20% off lotions, as a gratitude sale to thank our customers for being so great to us and benefit them a little bit before Christmas.”
Outsen said the extra holiday shopping residents do in her store helps her business thrive. “We are pretty successful throughout the year. December does get us that extra comfort level,” Outsen said. “The season is important for us and we do count on those sales as a small local business.”
Chasing fabulous Black Friday deals need not send Cache Valley folks online, either. Larsen of Al’s Sporting Goods stated, “We will always guarantee equal to or better than any price you will find at a brick and mortar store or a legitimate online entity.”
Not only that, most locally owned and operated companies will be closed on Thanksgiving day. Larsen said his hard-working employees will be up at 3 a.m. the next morning to get ready for Black Friday, but Thanksgiving is off limits. “Our employees are happy about that,” Larsen said. “We want everybody to stay home all day with their families on Thanksgiving.”
I hope so, too. With long lists of gifts to purchase, Cache Valley folks like me have plenty of shopping to do on Black Friday and beyond. I hope part of our Thanksgiving tradition will include gratitude to the owners and employees of local businesses who make holiday deals possible.
Kate E Anderson is a mother of five living in North Logan. She can be reached at email@example.com