Black Friday shopping frenzy gets early start

Boscov's Visual Specialist, Cindy Sanchez and Trim- Home manager, Glen Kuras stock Christmas items on Wednesday for shoppers at the Dover Mall store starting Thanksgiving at 6 p.m. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Boscov’s Visual Specialist, Cindy Sanchez and Trim- Home manager, Glen Kuras stock Christmas items on Wednesday for shoppers at the Dover Mall store starting Thanksgiving at 6 p.m. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

DOVER — Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday, the infamous trinity of holiday shopping incentives, are nearly here.

They’re the reason you may grunt slightly while picking up this unusually fat Thursday edition of the Delaware State News, with details of all the local sales tucked inside.

Throughout the country and state, stores, big and small, are preparing for the onslaught of customers that will soon descend upon them. Over the past few years, many stores have started opening for Thanksgiving hours in addition to early morning Friday hours. For instance, Dover’s Boscov’s opens today from 6 p.m. to 1 a.m. and Walmart, Target and Sears open at 6 p.m.

The Dover JC Penny brings on about 30 temporary employees for the holiday shopping season, said the store’s general manager Gale Ashley-Davis.

“Based on job performance, if there are openings after Christmas we consider the temporary employees for permanent positions,” she said.

JC Penny opens at 3 p.m. today and stays open all the way through till Friday evening and customers will line up today outside the store for a chance to get their hands on exclusive coupons.

The Dover Store manager Tom Smith stocks a Dover Trivia game at the State Street store on Wednesday preparing for Small Business Saturday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

The Dover Store manager Tom Smith stocks a Dover Trivia game at the State Street store on Wednesday preparing for Small Business Saturday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

“The Black Friday deals that have our customers excited are the spotlight deals on diamond earrings which usually go for $128.98 going for $20, boots for $19.99 and this year we have appliances as well.”

The Dover Mall makes special arrangements to accommodate the large influx of shoppers, too. Michele Doucette, director of marketing and business development, said the mall will open today from 6 p.m. to 1 a.m. so shoppers have access to the retailers inside and their Black Friday deals.

“We have people line up at the mall, too,” she said. “We’re committed to meeting the needs of our shoppers, with different preferences and schedules.”

Ms. Doucette said that since the mall started offering Thanksgiving hours in addition to Black Friday hours, she’s noticed a slight increase in overall foot traffic. She said the mall also goes above and beyond when it comes to making sure its shoppers, retailers and employees remain safe during a shopping extravaganza that is sometimes associated with overzealous shopping behavior.

“Safety and well-being are some of our top priorities,” she said. “Many of our security measures are visible to the public, including providing a robust security force that continuously patrols the area and deployment of law enforcement personnel. Other security measures are not visible and not disclosed to avoid compromising our efforts.”

She also offered some tips for staying safe during Black Friday: Park in a well-lit area and keep valuables out of plain sight in the vehicle; bring a friend or family member if shopping late in the evening; keep valuables and cash in a secured wallet or purse; be discreet if paying for items with a large sum of cash; and stay alert to the general activity happening around you.

Small Business Saturday, on the other hand, is an effort started about six years ago to help drive holiday shoppers to locally-owned businesses in their communities. According to some, the effort has started to translate into increased sales for small shops.

Tom Smith, manager of the Delaware Store on 325 South State St., in Dover, said they’ve been doubling the amount of patrons that take advantage of their storewide 10 percent mark-down on merchandise since they started participating.

“We always have cookies, cider and refreshments out, too,” said Mr. Smith. “We’re expecting a big response to Small Business Saturday like we’ve seen in the past.”

Beside getting some Christmas shopping done locally, Mr. Smith believes that participating in Small Business Saturday helps keep small businesses flourishing and it’s an investment in the community.

“These businesses are owned by your friends and neighbors,” he said. “They’re owned by people who volunteer as firemen, people who volunteer at the hospital, people who are on all kinds of committees that do wonderful things for their community.

“You should support them because the alternatives are the big box stores who, quite frankly, have no connection to the community. Sure they give away a few dollars now and then to get their names in the paper, but they’re not really involved in the community.”

Shopaholism

Although the default Black Friday fear is laying hands on the last discounted TV in stock at the same time as another shopper or being trampled in a mad rush for a special edition toy that every child wants, the shopping season may bring with it a more subtle ill. According to Terrence Shulman of the Detroit, Mich. Shulman Center for Compulsive Theft, Spending and Hoarding, the stretch of time between Thanksgiving and Christmas is a volatile time for people with compulsive shopping tendencies.

“It’s safe to say that the holidays are hard for a lot of people who are prone to addiction,” Mr. Shulman said. “Drinking goes up, shopping goes up, shoplifting goes up, gambling actually goes up a lot, over-eating obviously goes up. I’m no holiday downer, but we all need to recognize that the holidays can be the best of times for some people and the worst of times for others.”

Mr. Shulman, who’s been a licensed addiction therapist for 20 years, is the founder and director of one of the few centers devoted specifically to compulsive theft, spending and hoarding. He regularly counsels addicts nationwide.

“Arguments about money and spending are some of the biggest reasons why couples and families fight,” he said. “Oftentimes when one of these big sales comes up, one partner may be like ‘woo-hoo shopping!’ and the other may say, ‘oh no, here we go again.”

Shopping addiction, or oniomania (which translated from the Greek basically means ‘for sale insanity’), affects about 10 percent of Americans at some point in their lives, said Mr. Shulman. The shopping season constitutes as a “binge time” for many of these sufferers.

“Many people can start off the new year with a ton of debt, sort of like a debt hangover from the holidays,” he said. “Yes, some of these sales are really nice, but you can get most of them throughout the year with a few exceptions. Part of it becomes the ritual of shopping. I get a lot of calls, particularly after the holidays from people who really fell off the wagon and are looking for help in the new year.”

He also notes that the behavior shoppers model is often observed by their children, a prospect that’s worth considering during the Black Friday rush.

“I’m not a scrooge, but we need to be careful about what we’re modeling for our children,” he said. “What’s the true meaning of the holidays? Is it all about consuming and shopping for good deals? A lot of the time that’s the message the kids are getting.”

For people with compulsive shopping tendencies, Mr. Shulman offers the following tips to get through the shopping season debt free: Talk honestly with a loved one or family member about the compulsive feelings, participate in alternative activities that aren’t focused around shopping, invite a responsible friend capable of reigning you in to shop with you, create a strict shopping budget or leave the credit card at home and restrict yourself to only a budgeted amount of cash you bring with.

“Instead of just buying stuff, maybe you can treat yourself to a service like a manicure/pedicure or a massage, or take the family to a movie and a nice dinner,” he said. “Before buying something, ask yourself these questions: Can I really afford this? Do I really need this? What happens if I wait? Do I have the room for it? Can I find a way to celebrate myself and my loved ones in a more healthy, conscious way?”

To learn more about shopping addiction or to consult with Mr. Shulman, visit shopaholicsanonymous.org/

Reach staff writer Ian Gronau at igronau@newszap.com

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