The madness of Black Friday may have died down since stores started debuting their doorbuster deals on the evening of Thanksgiving Day, but that didn’t keep many Bakersfield residents from heading out to their local outlets to do some Christmas shopping.
For Shelly Aldridge, who trudged out to Kohl’s in northwest Bakersfield at about 11 a.m., Friday, to do her Christmas shopping, the hubbub was a shadow of what it had been in the past.
“I used to think it was crazy,” she said. “The first couple years we went, people were kind of rude.”
But, she said that ever since stores began offering their big deals before Thanksgiving even ended, the Black Friday madness has died down.
“To me it’s not worth it,” she said of the previous year’s experiences. “I’ve seen people argue over a parking spot.”
Indeed, the scene at Kohl’s was that of a busy, but orderly extravaganza on Friday. Every checkout booth in the store was staffed, but that didn’t prevent lines from wrapping halfway down the main aisles, filled with customers holding items destined to be stuffed in stockings and left beneath Christmas trees.
At a time when online shopping is taking a bigger and bigger chunk out of traditional retailers’ markets, Black Friday seems to be holding on for the time being.
Packed parking lots and full shopping bins were the order of the day on Friday, with many shoppers likely to return over the weekend.
Local retailers, too, see huge increases in sales after Thanksgiving. Even stores that don’t traditionally fit into the Black Friday ideal do well when people get into the shopping mood.
“We’ll do maybe triple our business,” said Steve Illingworth, president of Urner’s, the hometown appliance store. He added that throughout the entire weekend, the stores experience high sales volumes. “Black Friday is by far the biggest day.”
While the washing machines, mattresses and furniture sold at Urner’s aren’t typically given as gifts, Illingworth said customers flock to the store during the Black Friday weekend to take advantage of the deals.
There may be fewer shoppers than 10 years ago, but he said the customers today tend to do more research before entering the store.
That can be seen on Black Friday, when floor salesmen have to answer customers questions about the purchases about to be made.
“It’s a little hectic,” Illingworth said of Black Friday. “But most people that shop here wait to make sure they’re making the right purchase.”
And despite the growth of online shopping, at least one store in Bakersfield has seen an uptick in Black Friday shoppers.
“We definitely are up the last couple years on Black Friday sales,” said Kerry Ryan, owner of Action Sports on Brimhall Road. “”The convenience of better parking and more sales staff has really helped us a lot.”
The store opens half an hour earlier and stays open half an hour later on Black Friday, but Ryan said a big reason for the increase in the sales is due to the store being the only winter sports outlet in town.
He said customers get a break from the hectic activity of bigger stores when they go to Action Sports. He added that customers now expect all stores to have great deals on Black Friday, a trend Action Sports follows.
“I truly am putting most of the store on sale because you have to. You have to have some perceived bonus,” he said. “We have great service, but (customers) want to know they’re getting a little extra.”
Retailers hope sales remain strong until the end of the holiday season. For Aldridge, she has the feeling she will be pulled back into the shopping frenzy before long.
“Are you kidding me?” she said when asked if she would complete her holiday shopping at the end of the day. “I’ll probably get home and think ‘oh dang, I forgot someone.’”