For The Recorder
Early-morning Black Friday sales are nothing new on the day after Thanksgiving. But this year, area stores are opening earlier than usual, on Thanksgiving Day or at midnight on the morning of Black Friday.
Spearheaded by major corporate stores, the trend is putting pressure on other corporations and small businesses to open earlier to compete, according to local managers.
Some stores, such as Michaels in the Amsterdam Commons plaza and Big Lots on Route 30, are usually open on Thanksgiving Day. Michaels will be open from 4 to 11 p.m. on Thursday and then reopen at 7 a.m. on Friday for more sales. Big Lots will be open all day on Thanksgiving, from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. and from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Friday, with different sales each day.
"As long as we have sales, we're going to be open," said Mary Canfield, manager of the Amsterdam Big Lots.
Walmart is starting its sales at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving this year, with new deals coming out after 10 p.m. and in the early morning on Black Friday. Target is also opening on Thanksgiving evening at 9 p.m. and will have sales all night and during the day on Black Friday in addition to online sales.
"Target's opening time was carefully evaluated with our guests, team and the business in mind," said Target spokeswoman Molly Snyder in an email. "Thanksgiving weekend is one of the busiest times of the year, and we appreciate our Target team's flexibility on this weekend and throughout the holiday season."
Super Shoes, another corporately owned business in Amsterdam Commons near Target, sent a survey to its employees asking if they wanted to open on Thanksgiving, according to regional manager Terri Hynes.
"Thursday is for giving thanks," she said, adding that the response from the majority of Super Shoes employees was no.
"I am not coming in on Thanksgiving," said Denise Landwehr, store manager of the Super Shoes in Amsterdam. "They are forgetting the whole meaning of Black Friday ... to dig businesses out of the red, out of the hole."
But other businesses in the same plaza as Michaels, Target, and Super Shoes have responded to the pressure of the earlier opening times.
Kohl's will be open from midnight Black Friday to midnight on Saturday, and Game Stop will be open from midnight to 9 p.m. Rue 21 will also open at midnight, offering 50 percent off everything except clearance products through the night into Friday.
"It had to do with Target being close to us," said Kayla Brackett, store manager at Amsterdam's Rue 21.
Maurices, next door to Rue 21, also made the decision to open at midnight because of the other stores. The store will be offering 50 percent off everything in the store from midnight to 4 a.m., closing for two hours, then opening again at 6 a.m. for special sales all day on Friday.
"Because the other stores in the plaza are opening and this is our first year here ... we wanted to do it and see how it goes," said Amber Vedder, store manager. "If I don't feel it was beneficial to the business, I'm not going to open at midnight and make my poor girls come in next year."
Olympia Sports store manager Denise Earls explained similar reasons for opening at midnight this year.
"(It was) so people could hit all stores at once and don't have to come back out at four in the morning," she said.
Olympia Sports is offering specials from midnight to 2 a.m., when early-bird deals will begin and continue through Black Friday.
Despite all the pressure, many corporately owned businesses with stores in the area are sticking to their normal Black Friday sales and staying closed on Thanksgiving, including Home Depot, Lowe's, Petsmart, Staples, and Sally's Beauty Supply.
"I think they should just keep it to Friday," said Denise DePhillips, store manager at Sally's. Her store is going to open an hour earlier than usual on Friday and offer special giveaways with every $45 spent.
But the businesses that feel the most pressure from the early opening times, blowout sales, and advertising hype of the Thanksgiving and Black Friday sales are privately-owned establishments in the Amsterdam area.
Alpin Haus, one of Amsterdam's family-owned businesses, will be open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Black Friday, its regular hours. The store will have sales all weekend, continuing in to what manager Jamie Georgelos called Small Business Saturday.
American Express started Small Business Saturday in 2010 and this is the third year. The purpose is to promote small businesses and shopping local at a time of the year when they could stand to gain big profits but may be overshadowed by big corporations.
Amsterdam Printing and Litho on Wallins Corners Road has recently become a supporter of Small Business Saturday. Online marketing manager Slavik Volinsky spearheaded the project, approaching American Express to officially get behind small businesses in the area.
"Most of our customers are small businesses," said Volinsky. "And we're a nationwide company, so we want to support them obviously any way we can. So this is kind of our way of encouraging others to shop small."
Amsterdam Printing has used its own materials to print official Small Business Saturday logos and slogans on mugs, pens, and posters. It will be open on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday next week from 3 to 5 p.m. for small businesses in the area to pick up the supplies, which they can post in their shops to raise awareness of the event.
Supplies will be available from Amsterdam Printing while they last, and others will be delivered to the Albany-Colonie Chamber of Commerce for businesses in the Capital Region. But any small business can offer sales and promotions on that Saturday to take part in the event.
Small Business Saturday could help businesses such as Lumart's Athletic Footwear and Shoe Center in Polar Plaza and The New Paris Shop in downtown Amsterdam, which will not be offering extended hours or special deals just for Black Friday.
"Every day's a special deal," said Mike McGillin, owner of Lumart's.
Philomena Iorio, owner of The New Paris Shop, is drawing customers in by entering anyone who makes a purchase on Black Friday in a drawing for a $100 gift card. She is having a 20 percent off sale from now until Christmas, but she does not see the point in opening up on Thanksgiving for extra sales.
"You need to cook the turkey," she said, laughing.
June's Hallmark on Route 30 will be open on Black Friday but is also not having sales or staying open longer.
"Our store isn't one of those people rush to for Black Friday," said Lauren Chatnik, store manager. "We kind of just are open if people want to get a head start on their shopping. We feel that we're a family store, we're a family business, and that to [open on Thanksgiving] just takes away from family. And it's supposed to be a family holiday.
"I think it kind of ruins the experience."
Down to Earth Natural Foods on Route 30 and The Book Hound in downtown Amsterdam will both be offering extended hours and special sales Friday to bring customers in. Down to Earth will be open form 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. with 20 percent off all Melissa and Doug toys and free products with the purchase of a guitar, while The Book Hound will offer 20 percent off the entire store and stay open until 9 p.m.
"With how stores are opening up in the plazas we want to stay competitive and give people a reason to stay local," said Tim Dado, an employee at Sievert's Sports in Amsterdam.
Sievert's will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Black Friday, offering 20 percent off the entire store.
Assistant manager Cory Russell agreed that Sievert's and other small stores do need support in competing against corporations with hundreds of employees.
"It definitely hurts, because we're working on a smaller staff usually in small businesses," he said. "Another thing is, it's hard to advertise as big as the other businesses because of less locations.
"I think a big part about it is just making money, and people realize that they can make money on those days, so that's why they do it. So in order for us to stay relevant we kind of have to follow suit, because otherwise we'll basically get left behind."
But when asked whether Sievert's would be opening up on Thanksgiving next year, Russell added, "I don't see that in our immediate future. So unless anything really changes, we're still family-owned. And family comes first. That's our big thing."