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Black Friday sales impacted by economy, Iron Bowl

Blame it in the ailing economy and the lure of college football: Black Friday took a hit this year in Butler County. The scheduling of the Auburn vs. Alabama game, which kicked off at 1:30 p.m. on Friday, instead of its normal Saturday slot, had potential shoppers in front of the TV instead of trying to bag bargains. Shoppers were also reining in their spending.

At The Pineapple in downtown Greenville, manager Katrina Scofield said the store “started off very busy” in the morning, but things quieted down considerably after lunch.

“I think the ball game kept people away in the afternoon,” she said.

Clothing stayed on the racks while jewelry proved the hot ticket item at The Pineapple on Friday, Scofield said.

“We had lots of people Friday morning but they were buying mostly small-ticket items. Our Friday is usually better than our Saturday sales, and this was true again – but we didn’t do as well as in past years. While we would have liked to have had higher sales, we are certainly thankful for what we did do last weekend,” Scofield said.

At Fred’s Discount in Gateway Plaza, owner/manager Randy Beeson described their Black Friday sales as “O.K.”

He blames the continued downturn in the local economy and a general “lack of money in Butler County” as prime culprits in less-than-stellar sales.

Beeson believes a change in advertising strategy this year also had an impact on Fred’s Black Friday sales.

“Our major ad actually came out six days before the event offering customers the special throughout the week. And we didn’t have any Early Bird specials. We offered the sale items all day. That took away a lot of the momentum for shoppers,” Beeson said. “It wasn’t bad, but we were down overall about 10 percent.”

At Wal-Mart, manager Bill McCrary said sales went very well in the morning, but slacked off between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m.

“That was a bit of a disappointment, but we knew it was going to happen due to the (Auburn-Alabama) game,” McCrary said.

Shoppers were snatching up specials such as $18 microwaves and $198 laptops, with brisk overall sales of TVs, video consoles, cameras, computers and toys at Wal-Mart on Black Friday morning.

This year customers were issued tickets for the items they wanted at Wal-Mart as they lined up for bargain merchandise of the morning.

“It created a bit of initial confusion, but it worked out well and kept things settled. Very few customers got upset,” McCrary said. “The day went pretty well for the company as a whole.”

While Beeson remains upbeat about an improvement of fortune for Butler County in 2010 with the January opening of Coastal Forest Products in Chapman, he expects overall holiday sales figures to be flat in the county.

“We do appreciate those who shopped with us and we can hope some folks are just waiting until the last minute. But this economy is making things tough for a lot of people here.”