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A long lineup stared through the glass at Wendell Fraser well before the Bargain Shop in Glace Bay was scheduled to open on Friday morning.
Feeling the festive spirit and wanting to help his customers escape the rainy and windy weather he opened a bit early to let them take advantage of the store’s Black Friday sales.
The lineup is further proof that Black Friday sales are not just exclusive to big-box outlets these days, which can be good news for smaller businesses looking to get in on the early Christmas shopping phenomenon.
“It is not only important to us but to the whole business district,” said the store’s manager, during a break from the sale. “A lot of the business district is privately owned in downtown Glace Bay, so us having a Black Friday flyer draws more people down. There is certainly more traffic in the area.”
Karaoke machines, pillows and some TVs were popular purchases at the Bargain Shop. Everybody wanted the sale-priced Quality Street chocolates, too.
“Last year’s sale wasn’t so great but it might have been because of the weather. But this year is certainly going really well.”
At Granny’s Country Cottage in North Sydney, where owners Mary Walker and Chris Livingstone describe their home decor and gift store as a "mom and pop" shop, a simple sale on prints was offered to Black Friday customers.
“Black Friday for small businesses like us is not really a big thing because we don’t have the high margins that we can play with but we just try to provide a unique shopping experience on the island,” said Walker.
“People still come even though we don’t have those sales like the big-box stores and they still enjoy the personalized service and selection.”
She said Christmas has been "pretty wide open" for them since just after Remembrance Day. The added enthusiasm around Black Friday has been just a bonus.
“We don’t change the whole store but every room has Christmas in it. The Christmas spirit is alive and well at Granny’s. We are known for that.”
Though they sampled a Black Friday sale this year, Walker said they may investigate a growing notion known as Plaid Friday next year that encourages people to do their shopping with locally owned and independent businesses like hers.
In downtown Sydney, some signage indicating some sales on Black Friday could be seen, but the general notion among merchants is to spread the deals over the final month of the shopping season instead of just one day or weekend.
“It really varies from merchant to merchant, to be honest,” said Michelle Wilson, executive director of the Sydney Downtown Development Association.
“I know myself, having had a business, if there is something that you’ve got in stock that you would like to mark down a little bit more you would do that. It really varies from merchant to merchant.”
Month-long savings as opposed to one-day deals keep customers out of "rush mode," she said, which is a nod to the relaxed, personal shopping atmosphere merchants strive to achieve in the downtown district.
“It gives it a more leisurely shopping experience and you are avoiding the craziness of some places you run into.”
Sale or not, Fraser thinks most merchants benefit from Black Friday.
“There’s always something in the flyer that somebody wants and it is so close to Christmas. When people are looking, I think it benefits everybody.