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Shoppers looking for deals Friday may need to set an alarm clock to get up early. They also should expect long lines and snarled traffic. While most stores will be closed today for Thanksgiving, many will be opening early Friday, the day after Th...

Shoppers looking for deals Friday may need to set an alarm clock to get up early. They also should expect long lines and snarled traffic.

While most stores will be closed today for Thanksgiving, many will be opening early Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, offering sales, promotions and door busters to those willing to forsake sleep in the name of bargain shopping.

Local stores will open as early as 4 a.m. Friday, one of the busiest shopping days of the year and the unofficial start to the holiday shopping season. Shoppers have been known to brave sub-zero temperatures and camp out hours in advance of early store openings.

"It's amazing how many times I have seen people sleeping in lawn chairs in front of businesses on 32nd Avenue South before they open early in the morning the day after Thanksgiving," said Bill Reid, general manager of Columbia Mall.

As many as 133 million Americans are expected to shop Friday, Saturday or Sunday this week, according to a National Retail Federation survey conducted by BIGresearch.


Local retailers are also expecting heavy traffic Friday and through the weekend.

"I think it will be much better than last year," said Blake Evert, store manager at the SuperTarget in Grand Forks, which recorded its best-ever sales for the day after Thanksgiving last year. "The sales leading up to it this year have been just outstanding."

One reason for the expected high turnout this year is the recent influx of Canadian shoppers.

Reid said last weekend some stores in the mall were reporting as much as 60 percent to 80 percent of their business was coming from Canadians. He said he has heard from some Canadians that they have been having a difficult time finding available hotel and motel rooms in town.

"A lot of the early-bird action should be from Canadians," Reid said. "I anticipate they are going to be down here in force."

Black Friday

The day after Thanksgiving has been dubbed Black Friday because it is when retailers traditionally go into the black or begin turning a profit for the year.

"It's huge," said Mike Rud, president of the North Dakota Retail Association. "They call it Black Friday for a reason. It's one of the busiest shopping days of the year. Everyone wants to get a jump on the holiday shopping season and they are looking for deals."


Scott Krugman of the National Retail Federation said over the past several years retailers have begun opening earlier and earlier with some even staging Midnight Madness events. He said retailers are listening to their customers, who have shown a willingness to shop early to get the best deals.

"I think it's tradition," Krugman said. "For a lot of consumers it is something they have done for years. It is the thrill of the hunt, looking for that great deal."

Some brave the crowds and long lines in an attempt to finish - or at least start - their holiday shopping.

A survey compiled by BIGresearch for the federation released a week ago found that more than 71 percent of shoppers had completed less than 10 percent of their holiday shopping.

But some would rather staple their head to the carpet than shop on the day after Thanksgiving.

"There are two mindsets," Krugman said. "Consumers who love it and consumers who don't want any part of it."

Holiday forecast

The National Retail Federation predicts that retail holiday sales will increase by a moderate 4 percent this year to almost $475 billion.


Michael Niemira, chief economist with the International Council of Shopping Centers, said he expects to see a modest gain in holiday sales this year, but said it is difficult to project exact numbers and said the final tally won't be known until gift card purchases are tallied up after being redeemed.

A recent survey of retailers by the North Dakota Retail Association estimated a 2 percent to 4 percent increase in holiday sales this year.

But Rud of the state retail association said North Dakota may fare better than the rest of the country this holiday season.

"We should have a really good Christmas this year," Rud said. "I think people will be out shopping, spending money and in a really good holiday mood."

The collapse of the national housing market has not affected the state as much as other areas in the country, most farmers have had a good year, the state's oil industry is booming and a favorable exchange rate for Canadians has led to a steady stream of Canadian shoppers in places such as Grand Forks.

"We continue to enjoy a retail environment here that is stronger than our Midwestern neighbors," Columbia Mall's Reid said. "Sometimes, we tend to be buffered from the effects of other areas."

Schuster reports on business. Reach him by phone at (701) 780-1107 or (800) 477-6572, ext. 107; by e-mail at rschuster@gfherald.com or view his business blog at www.areavoices.com/bizbuzz .

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