Friday, November 28, 2014

Black Friday in Windham and Raymond: Smaller crowds, personal attention, great deals - By Elizabeth Richards

It’s almost upon us, that crazy day of shopping known as Black Friday, when deals galore are offered up, but often in limited supplies, promoting panic, chaos and downright rudeness among shoppers. Windham retailers get in on the fun, but many take a slightly different approach to the day as well.
Bull Moose Music’s Windham store, for instance, will open at 6 a.m. on Friday, and anticipates it being a very busy day, said company representative Chris Brown. However, a lot of things will be on sale all week he said, reducing the need for the scrambling, and allowing for more personal attention for shoppers. All Black Friday specials will be available online on Thursday, and many items will be on sale into Saturday and Sunday, or go on sale earlier in the week. 

“We try to do it differently. When we are planning for Black Friday, we try to have enough to go around,” said Brown. When sales draw new customers into the store, they don’t want them to leave disappointed, he added. “If we’re going to make a deal we want everyone to be able to access that deal.”  

Black Friday deals will include CDs, DVDs, and Blu-ray videos and video games at 50 percent or more off, said Brown. Black Friday Record Store Day offers limited release recordings on vinyl starting at 8 a.m. These items are a big part of the excitement, Brown said, giving music fans the opportunity to find unique things, or collect something they really love.

Brown said that the retail area on Route 302 offers an option away from the crowds of the mall. “It’s nice to have that regional shopping area, and we’re happy to be a part of it,” he said. 

For Veronica Meyer, owner of Essentials in Raymond which carries a variety of local and New England handcrafted gift items including jewelry, Christmas ornaments, puzzles, and jams as well as children’s toys, Webkins and more, Black Friday is business as usual. Having only been open since May, this is her first experience with the busiest shopping day of the year. She said she anticipates the focus will be on the busier mall area, but added that it would be nice to have people stop in on their way back to find unique gifts with personal attention.

She offers more personalized attention at the store than customers will find at the mall, said Meyer. For instance, all purchases are presented in a nice bag with tissue paper, ready to give as a gift. Holiday bags will also be available at no extra charge, she said. 

Meyer isn’t planning to offer any special black Friday deals, but customers will receive a coupon for $5 off their next purchase of $20 or more. She said she hopes that local shoppers will realize that she has a lot of more unique gifts with a little extra special service to offer.   She also encourages people to support local businesses and avoid the crowds by shopping locally.

Essentials will be open Monday through Saturday after Thanksgiving, and will offer some special events such as a men’s night and a holiday open house, throughout the season. 

Bob Mills at Mills & Company in Windham said that Black Friday is a good day for them, but not great. Small Business Saturday, he said, is much better for them. 

While the store will open at 9 a.m. on Friday, an hour earlier than usual, and close an hour later on Saturday, at 7 p.m. instead of 6, they don’t play into the hype of cut-rate prices and crazy deals. They have a rule about non-vendor sponsored sales, Mills said. “When we lower the price on something at Mills & Co we do not raise it again.”  

They don’t raise their prices in order to lower them, as many large retailers do, he said. He gives a few reasons for this policy, including time, the expectation that the merchandise will sell at the price it’s marked at, and the fact that they want customers to be able to shop when they want. 

“If we were to put fictitious prices on our merchandise to give our customers a false sense of saving then it would undermine our customers’ confidence in us,” he said.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t some deals to be found at Mills & Co. Their regular prices are often lower than suggested retail to begin, and for the weekend after Thanksgiving Wusthof Cutlery has some allowed sale prices, like the Gourmet Style 18 piece block set. Regularly sold at Mills & Co. for $299.99, this set will be $199.99 for the weekend. The 8-piece stainless steel Steak Knife box set also has a special weekend price. Mills & Co. regularly marks it at $79.99, but this weekend, the price is $49.99. Oxo has also come out with some cookware, and Mills said they have value priced these frying pans to start at $19.99. These prices will remain the same as long as the items are carried he said.

The fastest selling items in the store currently, Mills said, are alternative down comforters and blankets. “Our prices are very good on both items, much less than anywhere I have seen,” he said.

The Hometown Sears store, operated by Robert Yates, is offering all the deals made available by Sears for the weekend, without the need to travel for them. “We are loaded and ready to welcome all our local friends,” he said. “No need to drive, as you can buy it in Windham without the hassle of going to one of the mega malls.”  

The store will open at 12:01 a.m. on Black Friday, and stay open until 7 p.m. Saturdays hours will be 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Sunday they will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Almost everything is on sale, Yates said, and there are many early specials that end at 1 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.

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