EL CENTRO — For many, the coming season qualifies, as one song claims, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year,” … a popular Christmas song written in 1963 by Edward Pola and George Wyle, and released that year by singer Andy Williams.
And as anybody who has read Dr. Seuss knows, even the Grinch can get caught up in the spirit of Christmas. It is also the time on which retailers most depend to turn a profit for the year. Of course, kicking off the holiday shopping season is the ever-evolving Black Friday sales frenzy.
For several years the mercantile referees have advanced game time to include Thanksgiving Day. Some truly aggressive retailers, Best Buy near the Imperial Valley Mall in El Centro a case in point, had web-page Black Friday ads posted more than a week prior to the traditional launch of the holiday shopping season.
For the more traditional who can wait for in-store browsing, Best Buy will be open Thanksgiving Day 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. Then, on Black Friday, the store reopens at 8 a.m.
The preceding days, Nov. 25 to 27, are known as Power Week, explained Peter Rivas, store assistant manager. Hours are 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
“We have tons of promotions and they continue through December,” said Rivas. “There’s good in-stock of all products and every year we have ticketed (discounts) items, mostly TVs but some selected laptops. On Cyber Monday (Dec. 2) some promotions from Black Friday are held over. And Best Buy has done a great job of stocking comparable models (for out of stock items).”
What is special about the season for Rivas is he gets to enjoy interaction with customers from all walks of life.
“One of the cool things is seeing a customer get what they wanted,” he said. “It’s an exciting time and we have good tenure with our employees, some with us for 10 years or more.”
Looking to replace his wife’s blown printer, Roland Pritchard stopped in at Best Buy on Nov. 23. He said he does not enjoy last-minute shopping because that can sometimes resemble a cattle drive.
“For some, they need a sale to go shopping,” he said. “But Black Friday is not the only sale. Stores have sales throughout the year and some are better than Black Friday. They will hold sales based on when they need to move excess product.”
Kirkland’s home furnishings, another mall-area tenant, will be open Thanksgiving Day from 6 p.m. to 12 a.m., noted Jody Kidwell, store manager. On Black Friday it opens from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.
“On Sundays we open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. or 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., but it varies,” she said. “About the only day we close is Christmas. On Black Friday we’ll have coupons and giveaways. But I’m still waiting to hear from the corporate office for details.”
Downtown El Centro Tries to Emerge From Shadow of Mall
Forever Deals features men’s and women’s clothing and while it has been based in Chula Vista for 30 years, it opened a branch on Main Street in El Centro at the beginning of the summer. The store will be open Black Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. It offers athletic wear, shoes, hats, blouses, skirts and lingerie in a sweeping space, explained Barbara Montanez, sales associate.
“People tell us our clothing is unique and we have a lot of brand-name labels at unbelievable prices,” said Montanez. “The stores rely on Christmas to promote Black Friday. And then we’ll have prices we usually don’t have. But what I don’t like is sometimes we have a limited supply and that can cause a lot of anger in people and they will fight over it. But I’m hoping we’ll do well that day.”
West one block, at 560 W. Main, is The Finish Line Pro Bike Shop. Owner Alex Quintero starts his Black Friday events Nov. 25. All bicycles are 10 percent off and all parts and accessories are 20 percent off.
“Last year (Black Friday) was pretty decent,” he recalled. “Here’s the thing, everybody is already used to it and expects it (discounts).”
Although he will resort to the occasional online purchase to avoid surging crowds, he does take exception to the Amazon online site.
“At the end of the day, people don’t realize, Amazon doesn’t help out local communities,” said Quintero. “Even Best Buy generates jobs in our community but Amazon doesn’t want to do anything for the local community. Our local stores stock unique merchandise. Some, you just can’t find anywhere else.”
Next door to the Finish Line is the Roots Skate Shop selling skateboards and accessories, and operated by Anthony Aguilar, who is also assistant manager for Finish Line. Roots, open only since the spring, operates on a shoe-string budget and staff but already has seen expanding sales. On Nov. 22, Aguilar hosted a skateboard run in the back alley for the local skateboard community.
“Black Friday is a good thing for all business because it boosts sales,” said Aguilar. “But for me, it makes Christmas buying affordable … and we get to save money.”
However, not all merchants view Black Friday as a retailer’s golden egg. Wendy Luevano, owner of Simply @ Home antiques and collectibles, in late November said she was still undecided whether she would schedule Black Friday promotions. She urges clients on her Facebook page to shop local, although some conflate that with big-box stores at the mall.
“But Main Street is having a Small Business Saturday (Nov. 30) and that focuses on independent retailers, which is perfect for me because we’re thinking of closing Friday,” said Luevano. “I’ve tried opening a couple hours on Black Friday but we didn’t do much.”
Luevano also pointed out the American Express credit card firm really pushes Small Business Saturday and Simply @ Home can open that day and offer a discount.
“There are better deals than Black Friday that come out,” she said. “But business definitely picks up through the holidays. But actually, my best time of the year is right after Tax Day because then they have money to spend.”
This story is featured in the Nov 28, 2019 e-Edition.