Perhaps it was the long operating hours and crazed early-morning shoppers that prompted REI, the venerable outdoor retailer, to close all its stores today in a kind of Black Friday rebellion.
The company has urged its employees and customers to get outdoors instead of splurging on the latest gear and apparel.
But for most big-box chains, Black Friday is a profit-making sale unrivaled on the calendar.
“It’s a good bet that people will be shopping on Black Friday, whether online or at the doorbuster sales,” said Tim Evans, vice president of economic development at the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce. “Gainesville-Hall County is a regional retail center for shoppers that plan their Black Friday around the sales, breakfast, lunch and a movie.”
The National Retail Federation estimates that sales in November and December (excluding autos, gas and restaurants) will increase 3.7 percent over 2014 to $630.5 billion.
More than 136 million shoppers are expected nationwide this weekend, spending an average of $805 per person.
And retailers are expected to hire between 700,000 and 750,000 seasonal workers this holiday season to meet customer demand, the NRF reports.
The Target store on Shallowford Road in Gainesville has hired about a dozen new employees to handle today’s rush, said Rachel Ballard, guest services manager.
Workers have been putting in overtime stocking the shelves in anticipation of Black Friday, she added.
The store opened on Thanksgiving night and kept its doors open overnight, with crowd control from off-duty police helping to keep the peace.
The new Academy Sports + Outdoors store on Dawsonville Highway in Gainesville is also rolling into the holidays on a high note.
Deals on firearms are bringing in shoppers, he added.
“Business has been steady, and we’ve received great support from the community” since opening earlier this month, said store manager Russ Hilsher.
In fact, business has been so good that Hilsher said he expects to keep his seasonal employees on staff after the holidays are over.
“We hope that shopping spirit continues to Small Business Saturday, and we encourage residents to buy local and keep their sales tax dollars in the community,” Evans said.