Local retailers enjoying final moments of 'calm before the storm'

gmartin@islandpacket.comNovember 23, 2011 

Shoppers walk by signs Wednesday afternoon advertising an early start to Black Friday at Tanger 1 Outlet Center in Bluffton. Stores will open at 10 p.m. on Thanksgiving night.

SARAH WELLIVER

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It's time to chalk up traditional "Black Friday" hours to the list of holiday customs that have fallen out of style.

Those 4 a.m. openings on the day after Thanksgiving are so 2010.

This year, local retailers are preparing to open their doors earlier than ever -- in many cases, 10 p.m. tonight -- for an annual stampede of bargain hunters.

Tanger Outlet Centers 1 and 2 in Bluffton will open at 10 p.m. for the first time in their history, a move general manager LaDonna Shamlou said reflects strong local interest in holiday discounts.

"It's all about consumer demand," she said. "In the past, we'd seen our entire parking lot fill up at 10, hours before any of our stores would open. This year, we just figured, 'If they're here, we might as well open up.' "

Shamlou has dubbed this year's sale "Moonlight Madness" -- like an outgrown Christmas gift, "Black Friday" no longer fits -- and will be on hand to watch the crowd.

That's assuming, of course, she isn't rendered too sleepy by the tryptophan in her Thanksgiving turkey.

"I tried to talk my husband out of turkey this year for that reason," she said and laughed. "But he wouldn't have it."

Best Buy in Beaufort moved its Black Friday opening up five hours from 2010 and will open at midnight, a move manager Shayla Cubias said was made to compete with other stores also opening earlier.

Other changes at that store this year include a police officer stationed near the entrance and a plan to let in only thirty to forty shoppers at a time.

"We want to be able to give our customers a one-on-one experience with our sales staff," Cubias explained. "We figure it's better to be safe than sorry."

Jennifer Addy, who manages the Palmetto Moon store at Tanger Outlet Center 1, said she's baking cookies and bringing a coffee machine from home to help keep her employees awake through the night.

"We'll be going through quite a few different shifts that night," she said, "but everyone's glad to be here. It's part of the excitement of the season."

Walmart on Hilton Head Island will be open this morning through Friday night to better deal with a sudden crush of customers.

"This is all about safety, for our customers and employees," store manager Dan Gaddy explained.

Anita Wheeler, manager of the Old Navy in Bluffton, said she's done her best to prepare employees for the onslaught when the store's doors open at midnight.

"Right now, this is just the calm before the storm," she said. "In the past, we've had people start lining up outside at 10 or 10:30, and we're expecting that again this year."

What advice did she have for workers dealing with their first Black Friday?

"I told them to have fun and try to take things one customer at a time," she said. "And when things get rough, just take a deep breath and move on."

Follow reporter Grant Martin at Twitter.com/LowCoBiz.

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