Virgil Goodman of Medford Music says he’s found that trying to keep up with the big guys on Black Friday is not a winning proposition. - Bob Pennell

Far from the madding crowd

They won't flood the airwaves with can't-miss sale alerts, aren't likely to be part of the Thanksgiving Day newspaper document dump, and their employees will get a good night's rest — unless they join the thousands beating down the doors at the big-box stores.

The local, less-glitzy survivors of the big-box and chain-store ascendency will, for the most part, go to work as usual on Black Friday and let the oversold customers find them in due time.

Scott Keith, who launched Northwest Outdoor Store in the Bear Creek Plaza shopping center three years ago, is willing to go toe-to-toe with the big boxes, matching prices and accepting competitors' coupons — but not until his doors open at 10 a.m.

"We consider ourselves the antidote to the hysteria," Keith said. "What is Christmas really about?"

For the overstimulated and late-rising shoppers, there will still be opportunities to catch bargains.

"We guarantee the best prices, but you don't have to wake up at 4," Keith said. "We have our sales going on also, but above and beyond that we will honor anyone else's sale. We want to do everything we can to encourage people to shop local ... that there are no real advantages to shopping at big boxes."

For some local merchants, Black Friday might mean having hot drinks ready for customers who have forsaken sleep to shop.

"We've always felt this was very much a family-oriented holiday," said Eric Maxwell, who operates LaStrada, in the Northgate Centre Marketplace, and Papillon Rouge, on North Phoenix Road, with his wife, Amy. "Having employees coming in at midnight or 3 o'clock is never something we wanted to do ourselves."

By simply extending hours by 60 minutes on both ends of the day, the Maxwells say they can handle the second and third wave of shoppers.

"Everyone can get the madness of the big-box stores done with and be comfortable in a little more relaxed setting," Maxwell said.

Rogue Ski Shop owner Bob Matthews professes a general aversion to Black Friday, but considers it just one of the many hazards of doing business in the 21st century. Having studied the impact on major chain and department stores over the years, Matthews argues the day after Thanksgiving isn't necessarily a big winner.

"A lot of time you hear analysts hyping the numbers based on a small sampling," Matthews said. "And when the Visa card report comes out showing the total dollars transacted (nationally) for the day, it will show spending was flat or down."

He wonders aloud whether fiscal-cliff, debt-ceiling discussions in Washington, D.C., and "other geopolitical stuff" may affect consumer confidence and spending.

"My read is that it is delaying the buying cycle for the whole week before Black Friday," he said. "People are saying, 'Let's wait and see what the specials are.' "

Rogue Ski Shop puts blanket discounts on certain categories of equipment, such as ski pants or snowboards. Matthews will open as usual at 9 a.m., but will hang around for an extra hour or two if there are customers.

Jerry Horton of Lawrence's Jewelers remembers the bygone era when local department stores drew Christmas shoppers to downtown Medford. Of late, however, downtown has been more like an urban wilderness on the day after Thanksgiving.

"You come to work on Friday morning and downtown is dead," said Horton, who oversees the 104-year-old family enterprise. "There are plenty of places to park, while people are fighting for parking spaces at the mall."

Horton is more than willing to relinquish Black Friday to the big-box and chain-store competition.

"We're not going to compete with those guys who are selling junk for no money," Horton said. "We'll get a little trickle, but Saturday is our day. We'll wait for the smoke to clear and then sell our quality stuff."

Farther out on East Main Street, Medford Music will carry on like any other Friday.

Owners Virgil and Sandy Goodman said they tried to keep up with the big-box Joneses at one time, but found it had no impact.

"We find people are focused on big boxes on Friday," Virgil Goodman said. "We just don't buy into the madness of Friday; everybody thinks they're getting a better deal than they are. It's a bit of propaganda from the merchandising point of view. The way we see it, there's no difference one day to the next."

Rather than relying on loss-leader items, Goodman said, he would rather give everybody the best deal he can.

"We did something in the past where we had some sales, but we didn't open early," he said. "We didn't see that it made a significant difference. We just try to keep on level keel and keep going forward. We'll have our Christmas sales sometime after Thanksgiving."

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463

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