Merchants Gear Up

ST. MARYS — As bargain hunters braved the early morning hours today in search of deals, an army of retailers were hard at work beforehand prepping local stores.

“We’ve been preparing for a couple of weeks now,” St. Marys J.C. Penney Store Manager Peggy Martin said. “Our schedule is done three weeks in advance so we know who will be working and we are working on getting the merchandise ready to go. So, it’s been more than a few days of preparing.”

The store opened at 4 a.m. today and featured a slew of specials until 1 p.m. To help with the busy holiday season, the store added 15 employees.

“It’s very exciting,” Martin said of Black Friday. “I’ve been in retail for more than 30 years and I have worked every Black Friday since, and it’s just a fun, exciting day. It goes by fast and I think it’s the start of the Christmas season.”

While stories circulate annually about fights and stampedes in larger cities, Martin said those events remain unseen in St. Marys.

“We don’t see those and since I’ve been here, it’s always been smooth,” Martin said. “The customers are all friendly and while it does get a little busy, everyone is patient.”

Matt Cherveny, store manager at the St. Marys Kmart store, said his crew has been prepping for today for the past few weeks. Cherveny said the store, which opened at 5 a.m. today, is expected to see a steady stream of customers.

“We are predicting to have a good number of people waiting outside with our competitors going to a midnight opening,” Cherveny said. “I think that will draw in more traffic at 5 a.m. because they will be shopped out by that time so I don’t think we will have competition as far as time of opening.”

Cherveny said he enjoys Black Friday because it offers him a chance to interact with customers.

“I’ve always been on the people side of things,” he said. “I would rather be on the floor kissing babies and shaking hands rather than sitting in the backroom doing paperwork.”

In Celina, Wal-Mart Store Manager Chris Carroll had to prepare for a change in the store’s Black Friday sales.

New this year, the retailer kicked off its sales at 10 p.m. Thursday and continued through the day.

“It changed a lot because we have about 12 hours to cover,” Carroll said. “It’s made more of a change to how we cover all of our sales.”

The fact that Wal-Mart is open 24 hours adds to its unique Black Friday situation. Carroll said people often camp out in the store for special deals.

“We usually have people line up early and a lot of them bring their own chairs and stay for four or five hours,” Carroll said. “We never have any problems with crowds, and people are always good and well behaved.”

Electronics should be in high demand, Carroll noted.

“We’ve got a lot of deals on TVs and laptops,” Carroll said. “We’ve got a lot of good deals.”

Despite the rush, Carroll said today is one of his favorite days of the year.

“I just like the excitement of what it brings,” Carroll said. “People come in and out and it’s a great day. It’s a little hectic and a long day, but it’s usually a good day. People are nice and we do sell a lot of merchandise.”