By Cady Kuzmich
Saratoga Springs — While Black Friday may have been a time of stampeding shoppers anxious for doorbuster deals a few years ago, the annual shopping event has now turned into a three day affair — and that’s not including Cyber Monday.
At 6:30 a.m. Friday morning, the Kohl’s parking lot in Wilton was nearly full, but not hectic by any stretch of the imagination. There was no line stretching around the building or even out the door. The line of customers waiting at the registers was hardly above average.
Shoppers meandered through the aisles casually as Christmas music played through the loud speakers — no shoppers were neck and neck pushing their wobbly wheeled shopping carts in a desperate race for the last toaster oven or television set.
Beverly Croteau of Malta and her daughter Desiree Drindak of Middle Grove met at 4 a.m. Friday morning before heading over to Kohl’s. “There’s nobody here in the middle of the night [early morning] — no lines,” said Croteau on the way back to her car. The two women heard the Thanksgiving crowd was much larger — “There were crowds wrapped around the store last night,” said Drindak.
“Kohl’s is always our first stop. We adopt kids and Kohl’s has good specials for kids,” said Croteau. “It’s worth getting up early for,” she added.
The combination of online shopping and an increasing number of stores holding their “doorbusters” on Thanksgiving day, Black Friday has seeped into much more of the Thanksgiving week.
Kandy Bruce of South Glens Falls got up at 2:30 a.m. to get ready for the big day. She and her daughter, Kerrie Gordon, have been hunting for deals on Black Friday for about 15 years. The mother-daughter duo use Black Friday as an opportunity to take care of Christmas shopping. Commenting on the thought of shopping on Thanksgiving Gordon laughed, “You’re in a turkey coma after Thanksgiving.”
For the last two years, Megan and Kayla Moore have made the drive to Wilton all the way from Paulet, Vermont, with their mother Lisa on Black Friday. “I run a daycare so I’m in search of 23 children’s gifts,” said Lisa Moore. “My husband keeps texting me ideas of things to buy,” she added.
Heather Cacciotti of Johnsonville was in Clifton Park for her second Black Friday shopping experience November 25. “I got up around 5:30 a.m. to make it to EMS — they have fleeces half off. It’s stuff I would normally get anyway. Last year I saved $500 and spent $400 on everyone for Christmas,” she added while leaning on her cart in Marshall’s around 8:30 a.m. Friday. Last year, Cacciotti said she hit the stores around 10 a.m. and was greeted by bustling crowds.
When asked whether she would consider venturing out to the stores on Thanksgiving evening Cacciotti replied, “There’s nothing I need that much.”
Julia Messercola and her mother Tracey went out Friday morning for their first ever Black Friday experience. “I want to get my Christmas shopping done and not spend a lot of money,” said Julia Messercola. When asked what made her want to come out for this Black Friday, Tracey Messercola responded, “The excitement!”
The day, though some may think it contradicts the notions of gratitude celebrated a day earlier, offers an opportunity to buy gifts for loved ones on a budget. The day also offers a bit of escapism for those who are still reeling from the nation’s presidential election. That is, until browsing through the tightly packed aisles, and the name “Trump” on the tag of a dress from Ivanka Trump’s line of women’s clothing catches your eye.
Charlotte Mack of Schenectady’s Urban Restyle, an antique and vintage furniture shop located at 180 Erie Boulevard, said, “We’re hoping that Black Friday and Small Business Saturday bring a lot of foot traffic.” She added, “We have so much stuff right now — from buttons to bed frames, books, magazines, vases, dressers, chairs, art, mirrors, frames and a special Christmas gift [and decoration] section.”
Downtown Schenectady is offering free parking in 10 lots and in the downtown metroplex garage on Broadway this weekend.
About 95 million shoppers hit independent shops on small business Saturday day last year — an 8 percent increase from 2014, according to American Express. The Downtown Schenectady Improvement Corporation notes that shoppers in the United States spent $16.2 billion last year on Small Business Saturday — up 14 percent from $14.3 billion in 2014.
James Salengo, the Executive Director of the Downtown Schenectady Improvement Corp said, “We expect downtown Schenectady to be busy all weekend long, thanks to the start of the holiday shopping season, a major Broadway show at Proctors [The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time], new movies at the Bow-Tie Cinema, a fantastic selection of restaurants, [and] the Schenectady Greenmarket on Sunday.”
He noted, “Since downtown has many independent businesses, we do concentrate our promotions for this weekend around Small Business Saturday.” This marks the third year in a row that the DSIC has teamed up with the Capital Region Chamber and Upper Union Street Business Improvement District. Over the past decade, Salengo said downtown Schenectady “has undergone a remarkable period of revitalization, with many new businesses, beautiful new buildings and a growing number of new residents.”
“There is literally something for everyone,” added Salengo.