Issaquah retailers prepare for Black Friday rush
November 20, 2012
By Warren Kagarise
The day after Thanksgiving, long before the sun rises, open season for bargains starts at retailers throughout Issaquah and beyond.
Black Friday sends shoppers pinging from store to store like a pinball in search of deals — a 32-inch LCD television for $147 at Target, perhaps, or a Blu-ray player for $39.99 at Best Buy. Consumers brave predawn darkness, long lines and sharp elbows to score early-bird bargains.
The boost to retailers’ bottom lines could also offer a jolt to city coffers. Popular Black Friday destinations — including Bed Bath & Beyond, Best Buy, Fred Meyer, Target and, of course, Issaquah-based Costco — lure consumers from throughout the region.
Issaquah is a retail hub on the Eastside, and city officials hope the holiday rush resuscitates a flat year for spending. Overall, sales tax revenue forms a key piece in the city budget — a larger share than property tax revenue and permit fees, other main sources of dollars.
“Clearly, the holidays are the best time for retailers,” said Keith Niven, city economic development manager.
On the Web
Find local businesses participating in Small Business Saturday, Nov. 24, at American Express’ event website, www.americanexpress.com/us/small-business/Shop-Small.
The city estimates some Issaquah retailers might do much as 80 percent of annual sales during the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Black Friday, so named because the rush pushes retailers into the black — the color used to indicate profit — used to kick off the holiday shopping season. Now, shopping starts for the next holiday before Thanksgiving ends.
Retailers steadily started expanding Black Friday hours several years ago to beat the competition, and the kickoff starts not long after plates get cleared from the Thanksgiving feast.
Target is opening stores on Thanksgiving, to give shoppers a leg up on bargain hunting. The chain used to open stores at midnight on Black Friday.
“We heard from our guests that they look forward to kicking off their holiday shopping with deal-hunting on Thanksgiving night,” Kathee Tesija, Target executive vice president of merchandising, said in a statement. “Opening at 9 p.m. gives Target’s Black Friday guests a more convenient way to create an after-dinner shopping event that the entire family can enjoy.”
Target is not alone. Kmart and Walmart open on the holiday, too, but neither chain operates a store in Issaquah.
Best Buy and other retailers throw open doors at midnight Nov. 23.
Thanksgiving and Black Friday start the holiday shopping craze, but retailers extended the rush from the predawn hours on Friday morning into the following Monday.
Local business and city leaders reminded residents to head to local businesses on Small Business Saturday, Nov. 24.
American Express founded Small Business Saturday in 2010 to help small businesses get more exposure during the year’s biggest shopping weekend. Nationwide, American Express estimated more than 100 million people shopped at local businesses on Small Business Saturday last year.
Then comes Cyber Monday, Nov. 26, as shoppers trade deals at brick-and-mortar stores for bargains at click-and-mortar retailers online.
Niven said local business and city leaders hope consumers shrug off conservative spending habits for the holiday season.
“I think part of it is, different segments get hit by the recession at different times,” he said. “You’ve watched a lot of people fall on hard times, and now you’ve gotten to the point where you say, ‘You know, maybe we need to curtail some of our spending.’”
Black Friday survival guide
Attention, Black Friday shoppers: Better Business Bureau of Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington experts warn consumers to avoid anticlimactic bargains, limited quantities and bait-and-switch tactics.
The organization offers tips to shoppers braving the predawn darkness and bargain-hungry crowd:
- Does a store have sale advertisements and coupons? Bring them to stores and hold on tight.
- Comparison shop online to see how similar products are priced.
- Does a deal carry conditions or limitations? Read fine print carefully, and look for asterisks and timeframes.
- Is the bargain offered on a first-come, first-served basis? See if ads specify that supplies are limited.
- Do you see overly-enticing signage? Review it closely and snap photos to defend deals.
- Do terms change at registers? Watch out for higher prices due to undisclosed stipulations on “percentage-off” sales and “free” offers.
- Are there special incentives with in-store credit cards? Beware of high fees and interest rates. Too many open cards can damage credit.
- What about returns and exchanges? Find out if items are “final sale.” Carefully inspect “clearance” merchandise and other markdowns.
- Do ads or offers seem misleading? See the store manager. Contact the Better Business Bureau of Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington at www.bbb.org if problems persist.
Cyber Monday survival guide
The state Attorney General’s Office offers tips for consumers to avoid pitfalls when shopping online or using gift cards for holiday purchases:
Gift cards issued by merchants and financial institutions — such as Visa, American Express, MasterCard and Discover — must follow new federal guidelines.
Under the Credit Card Act of 2009, limitations have been placed on gift card fees and expiration dates. Service fees can no longer be charged until a card has been inactive for 12 months. Only then may one monthly fee be charged. Fee details and terms must be disclosed clearly and conspicuously prior to purchase. Gift cards now carry expiration dates of at least five years from the date of purchase or the date the card was last reloaded.
Washington state’s gift card law prohibits expiration dates on many kinds of gift cards and allows shoppers to cash out when the balance drops to $5 or less. Check the terms, details and date prior to buying a gift card.
Shop on secure websites with a credit — not an ATM — card.
Using secure websites helps ensure personal information is transmitted safely, without being intercepted by a third party.
Identify secure websites by looking for Web addresses containing “https” and check for a small padlock icon at the bottom of the page. Look for SSL certificates, such as VeriSign, to identify websites for safe browsing and purchasing.
A credit card is still preferred over debit cards for online shopping security because, with a credit card, the checking account is not affected by merchant errors or identity thieves.