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 earlier than ever -- in many cases, 10 p.m. tonight -- for the annual stampede of bargain hunters.

Tanger Outlet Centers 1 and 2 in Bluffton will open at 10 p.m. for the first time, 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've 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 too sleepy from 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."

Jennifer Addy, who manages Palmetto Moon at Tanger Outlet Center 1, said she's baking cookies and bringing a coffee machine from home to help keep 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."

Best Buy in Bluffton moved its Black Friday opening up five hours and will open at midnight this year, a move operations manager John Hurst said was dictated by the competition.

"It's all about competing with stores that are also opening earlier this year," he said. "We're excited to see what happens."

The store's employees, Hurst said, have been trained in advance for the demands of the night.

"We started preparing for this at least a month ago," he said. "We've gone over everyone's role already -- where they're supposed to be and what they're supposed to be doing."

Such orchestration might not be as necessary at the Walmart on Hilton Head Island, which will be open this morning through Friday night to deal with a 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 her 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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