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Crossroads prepares for Black Friday shopper frenzy

By ALLISON MILES
Nov. 19, 2011 at 5:19 a.m.
Updated Nov. 20, 2011 at 5:20 a.m.

Brenda Whitney, assistant store manager, walks down store aisles that are stocked with more goods for sale in anticipation of Black Friday. She expects the Sephora "store within a store" to lure more customers.

WANT TO BE BLACK FRIDAY READY?

For shopping tips, store hours, Black Friday trivia and other tidbits geared toward day-after-Thanksgiving super shoppers, pick up Thursday's Advocate.

READY, SET, SHOP!

Many stores boast early-morning hours on Black Friday. Some of the larger chains' hours include:

Best Buy: Midnight

JC Penney: 4 a.m.

Kohl's: Midnight

Sears: 4 a.m.

Target: Midnight

Walmart: Deals begin at 10 p.m. Thursday

The changes are subtle, but they're there.

Clothing stacks stand just a bit taller, while houseware displays inch subtly into aisles. A few new faces dot the work schedule, too.

Yes, to the well-trained eye, it's obvious: Black Friday prep is under way at Victoria's JC Penney.

The store began preparing for the day-after-Thanksgiving shopping frenzy a while back, adjusting displays so more merchandise fits on the sales floor, adjusting schedules and even hiring additional workers, said Brenda Whitney, assistant store manager.

"We want that extra staff there to ensure customers are taken care of," she said. "That they can get in and out quickly and find what they want."

New merchandise is another element to the store's Black Friday experience, said Brian Patteson, the store's manager. A children's toy section, complete with Barbie dolls, Cars-themed backpacks and other goodies, is new this year, while the new Sephora is also expected to bring added sales.

Planning doesn't center solely on the customers.

JC Penney will serve employee meals to those working that day, and the crew gets to wear comfier clothes, too, Whitney said. As an added bonus: Costumes are encouraged.

"The associates get to dress up this year," she said with a smile.

JC Penney will open its doors as usual, at 4 a.m., but others plan to go even earlier this time around.

Walmart announced that stores nationwide begin Black Friday sales at 10 p.m. Thursday, while other chains, such as Kohl's, Best Buy and Target, plan to open at midnight.

Other than rising just that much earlier from bed, 2011 Black Friday planning has gone much like every other year, said Mike Yokum, who manages Victoria's Target store.

Extra staff will be on hand to handle the crowds, he said, and employees will hand out maps so those in line know where to find the "doorbuster" items.

TVs are this year's hot items, he said.

"We expect a nice crowd," he said. "It's always fun."

Best Buy works to improve its Black Friday planning each year, but virtually has it down to a science, said Adrian Lopez, the store's manager.

The store lets customers in a little at a time, and a color-coded system leads them where they need to go. Employees also hand out vouchers to those in line, so they're guaranteed the items they went in for.

"It could best be described as organized chaos," he said with a laugh.

TVs, smartphones, tablet computers and other electronics top the list for this year's top buys, he added.

Chain stores aren't the only ones preparing for the shopper onslaught.

The Market of Victoria will set out gourmet food samples throughout the store on Black Friday and will remain open longer than usual, said Connie Wood, the store's owner.

While some larger stores open their doors in the wee morning hours, Wood said she's content to begin the day at 9 a.m.

"Normally, what we see is, our customers will do the big stores early that morning," she said. "Then, in the afternoon, we are just bombarded here."

Wood said she doesn't find it difficult to compete against the big boys, mainly because of her shop's inventory and customer service.

"We have one-of-a-kind things you won't find other places," she said. "You can pull up to the door to come in, and we offer gift wrapping while customers wait. The competition doesn't hurt us one iota."

Lentz True Value Hardware doesn't find it tremendously difficult to compete with the larger retailers, either, said Ray Shannon, the store's manager. While box stores often hone in on electronics deals during holiday shopping season, the hardware store's focus is different.

"We have things for those people who are harder to buy for," he said, noting grills, power tools, gift baskets and more. "We've got some unique ideas."

The hardware store plans to operate business as usual on Black Friday, he said, without extended hours, but said Lentz's customer service helps with the holiday shopping season.

Employees greet customers at the door, show them where to go and are available if shoppers need suggestions.

"People appreciate it," he said of the help. "Sometimes, you get to the point where you just don't have ideas anymore."

As for the staff at JC Penney, plenty of planning has already happened, but it isn't over yet.

"We've still got work to do," Whitney said with a shrug and a smile. "A lot of it."

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