BANGOR, Maine — Early and extended hours, deep discounts and door-busting deals are some of the strategies area retailers will employ Friday in the hopes of getting shoppers to cross their thresholds.
Known as Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving marks the start of the traditional Christmas shopping season throughout the United States — and Greater Bangor is no exception.
The area’s retail stores are ready for Friday’s shopping frenzy, which marks the start of the period in which they traditionally begin to see profits, or go “in the black.”
While most major retailers — including many of the businesses at the Bangor Mall and the Wal-Mart stores in Bangor and Brewer — are gearing up for 5 a.m. openings on Friday, shoppers can get started as early as midnight Thursday, when the Bangor Toys “R” Us store becomes the first in the area to open.
The toy store’s midnight opening will be followed by Old Navy, which opens at 3 a.m. Friday, and Kohl’s and J.C. Penney, which both open at 4 a.m.
In downtown Bangor, most stores will open at their regular times, though many will offer extended shopping hours. An exception is Epic Sports, which is throwing its doors open at 6 a.m. for its annual early bird sale, which runs through noon.
Opening early Friday in Brewer, in addition to Wal-Mart, is Marden’s Surplus & Salvage, where shoppers will be allowed in starting at 6 a.m.
James Gerety, manager of the Bangor Mall and chairman of the Greater Bangor Convention & Visitors Bureau, is optimistic as Black Friday approaches.
“I really am encouraged going into the season, though I had my doubts as recently as a few weeks ago,” he said Wednesday.
National statistics released last month by retail sales watchers, including the Retail Industry Leaders Association, show sales are up by 1.5 percent over the past three months. The association also reported that sales have grown more than 3 percent since last December — despite the recession.
That, Gerety said, bodes well for retailers in Greater Bangor, which serves as the regional retail hub for much of northern and eastern Maine as well as for nearby Canadian provinces.
“So I think that we’re looking at a good kickoff,” he said. “There’s been some concern about the economy, but I think people are ready to spend and ready to spend early. Certainly, the October sales support that.
“I’m not an economist, but I think that people are settling into the recession, which is expected to last well into 2010, some say even into 2012,” he added.
The near parity of the Canadian dollar — which this week was yielding almost 95 U.S. cents — is expected to prove attractive to shoppers from north of the border.
In fact, a quick Internet search showed a number of motorcoach shopping tours planned from cities such as Saint John and Moncton, New Brunswick, and from Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia, to name a few.
Gerety said he is expecting “probably about the same number” of north-of-the-border shoppers as came to the area a year ago.
“They have been coming consistently as late as last weekend,” he said. “And we’ve seen that pretty much week in and week out.”
Several of the Canadian shopping charters are making a weekend of the trip so that shoppers are able to bring back up to $400 Canadian in merchandise per person duty-free.
For more specific information on special Black Friday shopping hours and sales, see the fliers and ads in today’s newspaper or visit individual retailers’ Web sites. Though some nationwide chain stores are advertising holiday sales on Thanksgiving, Maine residents should remember that large retailers in Maine will be closed. That’s because state law prohibits retail businesses with more than 5,000 square feet of selling space and more than five employees from operating on Thanksgiving Day.