Jeff Kirby is ready to face the longest, and what he hopes will be the most profitable, day of the year.
Kirby, the manager of the Rock Hill Galleria, predicts a frantic day Friday as stores at the mall and across the country open in the pre-dawn hours hoping to attract customers who will spend big bucks on big sales for Black Friday. The Friday after Thanksgiving is known as one of the busiest shopping days of the year for retailers.
Faced with major competitors less than 30 minutes away in South Charlotte, Kirby hopes recent additions to the Galleria will keep more shoppers in town this year. He said popular clothing chain Rue21 opened last week and plus size women's clothing shop C.J. Banks moved in recently to bolster the line of shops at the mall. He said Kayla's, a new restaurant in the food court, will open Friday and many seasonal retailers selling specialty items and gifts have filled other empty spaces.
"We're working diligently, and we've filled a lot of space. ... We're expecting large crowds and heavy traffic," Kirby said, noting retail statistics suggest most shoppers still have about 90 percent of their holiday gift-buying to do. "You're looking at a lot of shopping still to be done."
Mark Farris, York County's economic development director, said Rock Hill's proximity to Charlotte means as much as 40 percent of local retail dollars are lost to Charlotte annually. But Kirby said new stores in the mall and on Dave Lyle Boulevard are reversing that trend.
While deep discounts on toys and electronics will bring shoppers by the thousands to malls and department stores, retail experts predict only a 4 percent increase in holiday shopping sales this year, the lowest increase since 2002, according to the National Retail Federation.
"Retailers know that customers are looking for good values this holiday season," said NRF President Tracy Mullin. "Many will be offering prices and promotions that are too good to pass up."
3. Dolls (generic)
4. Dora the Explorer
5. Disney Princess
6. Disney Hannah Montana
7. Nintendo Wii
10. American Girl
2. Video games
3. Nintendo Wii
4. Cars (generic)
7. Thomas the Tank Engine
8. Xbox 360
10. Remote controlled vehicles
Source: National Retail Federation
• Plan ahead. Inside this paper are enough ads to send the biggest shopaholics into a coma. Find the deals you're interested in and make priorities. You can't be at Best Buy, Kohl's and Wal-Mart at the same time. Rank your priorities and shop accordingly. Don't forget to look for coupons and early-bird specials.
• Eat breakfast. No one should brave the shopping madness on an empty stomach. Enjoy turkey leftovers or a bowl of cereal before you leave the house. It wouldn't hurt to drink a cup of coffee (or two). You'll feel better and save money on food at the mall.
• Wear your walking shoes. Long lines mean you'll be doing a lot of standing. So forget the stylish heels and wear comfy sneakers.
• Park near the exit. It can be tempting to search for the best parking place, but it's less stressful and easier to get back on the road if you park near the exit and walk to your favorite store.
• Arrive early. Some lines begin forming as early as 3 a.m., and the best deals may be gone by the time you normally wake up.
• Take a friend. Your nerves will appreciate some friendly conversation to counter the race for the last Nintendo Wii. And a partner means you can divide and conquer to fill that list.
• Wait until Monday. Retailers will begin posting a new wave of deals on Web sites Monday. It's called Cyber Monday, and its one of the busiest online shopping days of the year. So spend Friday with your family at home, and do your shopping online Monday. It's a good way to ease back into the work week. Just don't get caught shopping at work.