Black Friday will be here before you know it

Store doors across the valley will open early for Black Friday, giving bargain hunters what some may consider to be the dubious opportunity to shop around the clock.

Holiday shoppers wanting to work off turkey will find a number of early options to warm up their debit and credit cards, with some stores opening today and many beginning their sales in the wee hours of Friday.

"Last year was our best Black Friday and we opened at 3 (a.m.)," said JCPenney store manager Frank Clifton. "We got a lot of traffic and it just built to the top of the day."

Much has been written about the psychology of shoppers swearing off sleep to bargain hunt, but Clifton said there's one critical factor.

"It comes down to having the right merchandise, it always does," he said. "You have to have the gifts people want to give. Pea coats were the big driver last year and we had good deals on houseware items, which we also have this year."

JCPenney has operated in the Rogue Valley Mall since 1986. As a result it has long pulled in shoppers from neighboring surrounding counties. Although the economy is shaky, double-digit unemployment lingers and gas prices are consuming large chunks of monthly budgets, Clifton expects to see big crowds.

"The outside shopping is huge," Clifton said. "People circle the date on the calendar and they are going to shop on Friday; gas prices are not a factor."

The overly eager shoppers don't have to wait until Black Friday — when the nation's retailers typically swing from a loss into profitable territory. A number of local stores — Big Lots, Fred Meyer, Michael's, Old Navy, Rite-Aid Pharmacies, Toys 'R' Us, Walgreen and Walmart Drug Stores — will be open for at least a few hours today.

"It's a big day for us" said Old Navy assistant manager Christina Cano. "This is the third year we've done it and people love shopping on Thanksgiving."

Cano said whole families make the trip.

"Friday is still definitely busier," she said. "But Thursday is gaining popularity."

Black Bird Shopping Center owner Bill Quitt has adopted a slightly different strategy over the years.

Even though the West Main Street retailer has swung its doors open at 6:30 a.m. Friday for years, Quitt said the day before Thanksgiving has become a big event for the store's clientele.

"We came out with our ad a day earlier (Wednesday) and that seems to work for us because it beats everybody to the punch," Quitt said.

The 2007 Black Friday was likely the best ever for the store, but the global economic meltdown a few months later smothered sales.

"It was like a light switch," Quitt said. "Our sales dropped almost 30 percent. We've slowly fought back This is shaping up as a good year for us, but we don't know until Friday."

In the long run, Quitt said, Black Friday will likely give way to a flurry of Thanksgiving sales.

"We like the traditional day of Thanksgiving," he said. "But I can see at some point where everyone will start Thursday morning because so many people have the day off, so it will end up just happening."

While the Rogue Valley Mall common area will be closed today, some anchors will swing into action at the strike of midnight and many interior shops will follow suit.

"We have maybe one vacant space," mall general manager Jeff Barber said. "Everything is ready to go and if the passes are open we'll see people from the coast, Klamath County and Yreka."

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or email

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