Black Friday Businesses

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COLUMBIA - Die-hard Black Friday shoppers, traditionally pour over ads for days to plot a strategy to get the best bang for their buck. Big store brands dominate Black Friday sales with "Big Door-Busters" at large national retailers such as Wal-Mart, Target and Best Buy. But for some retailers, Cyber Monday is a better venue for smaller brands. Cyber Monday caters to online shoppers by offering customers a larger number of deals as well as more participating retailers.

Downtown Columbia is full of the small retailers. Dave Danuser, co-owner of Bingham's Clothing said, "There is not quite as much traffic downtown and there is a lot of malls, with big box stores which are the ones really promoting that and getting people in early. We get Christmas shopping and people who don't want the hassle of fighting crowds."

Elly's Couture also in downtown Columbia has an online store as well as a physical location. The advantage to shopping on Black Friday is that this retailer unifies its physical and online stores, so once it is gone from the store, it is also sold out online. Elly's Couture is offering 50 percent off the entire store during its door-buster sale on Black Friday. Store owner Elly Bethune does not expect to sell out of her stock but does encourage shoppers to come into the store Friday for better deals and to ensure items aren't gone by Monday for their Cyber sale on their website.

Bethune said, "I would hope that if we did a huge discount online and people are on there looking for sales that were would definitely be a higher percentage [of online sales] this year than last year."

But research conducted by reveals that last year Black Friday had only five percent more deals than Cyber Monday did, a drop of five percent from the previous year. Clearly, the deal-gap is closing, which levels the playing field for all consumers. Danuser said, "Our online site we don't sell a lot of merchandise. It's more to check out the store and find out what the store is about."

One reason to look over ads and set a game strategy is because discounts on Black Friday and Cyber Monday do vary. Retailers can control pre-discount pricing, and also can control the margins on electronic items which differ from those on clothing. Many retailers have promotions early in the week. These promotions, which are equal to or greater than those found on Black Friday, can begin as early as the Tuesday before. Most retailers use language in their Black Friday advertisements to describe the deal's perceived value and try to steer the advertisements away from Black Friday being just one retail-shopping day of the entire year.

The National Retail Federation said the average shopper in 2011 purchased 36 percent of their holiday shopping online. This year the NRF is expecting a 4 percent increase.

Columbia consumers will take scoring a Black Friday deal online over shopping in stores or waiting until Cyber Monday. "I'd rather buy something online because I'll know instantly if I've gotten it or not," said Meghan Vallaro, a Columbia resident.

"I think most of the downtown shoppers have a little different attitude that's almost like they don't want the hassle of the mall," said Danuser. The main takeaway is that with a little research, consumers can find deals on the products they want, and they may not have to fight the crowds on Black Friday to get it. And that's good news for consumers, any day of the week.