The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

November 27, 2009

Black Friday

Shoppers get in Christmas spirit on Black Friday

By Mannix Porterfield

You might have watched the affable shoppers rotating inside Crossroads Mall early Friday and thought you had just entered a page of Charles Dickens’ holiday classic.

Everywhere one turned, there seemed to be a character out of “A Christmas Carol,” arms bundled with freshly bought packages, hands clinging judiciously to cups of coffee, glad-handing, waving, chatting happily on cell phones and using them to photograph the moment for posterity.

Every character, that is, except sour old Scrooge.

“Everybody has had just the best attitude,” mall Manager Kathy Housh said.

“Everybody has been happy. They’re enjoying themselves. In some seasons, I’ve noticed a lot of high stress. But this year, everybody is very thankful. Everybody is very considerate. It’s been very pleasant. We’ve had a wonderful turnout. I have just been pleasantly and wonderfully surprised.”

Nature put early risers in the mood with a colorful dusting of snow that decorated evergreens at the mall, worthy of a Currier & Ives card, but had the decency to keep it off the roads.

“Some people said it got them in the Christmas spirit,” Housh said.

“We had just enough snow to make everybody happy and not enough to stop them. It looks very cheerful.”

Crossroads’ three anchors — Belk, Sears and J.C. Penney — opened promptly at 4 a.m., and crowds were already lined up to get started. All others opened their gates an hour later.

No merchant was complaining, recession or not.

“There seems to be a lot more people,” Housh said. “And it seems to be evenly spread out through all the mall.”

Snoopy is turning 60 this year, so the popular Peanuts character at a piano and playing a tune was a best-seller item at the Hallmark shop, clerk Teresa DeLano noted.

Ditto for the Hallmark Christmas ornaments, along with wrapping paper and other seasonal essentials.

“Ornaments are real big this year,” DeLano said. “We’re doing good on those. The most popular ones that everybody wants are the Magical Snowmen.”

While most stores declined to be specific, explaining that media inquiries must be filtered through corporate headquarters, a spokesman for Radio Shack said he expected sales there to outstrip last year’s edition of Black Friday. Judging by the long lines and crowded checkout counters, the only thing black about this Friday promised to be the ledgers in the stores.

Tempting aromas wafting from Steak Escape inspired a long line of buyers, and the popular eatery gave political correctness a swift kick with a huge sign over the counter, reading, “Happy Birthday Jesus.”

Waldenbooks seller Crystal Rookstoll was clad in a spiffy, all-black outfit, worn for comfort and not as a play on the day.

“Books are selling pretty well,” she said. “We have some great sales going on here. And everybody is taking the opportunity to come out and get their Christmas gifts. Some people are buying things for themselves.”

Sarah Palin’s national best seller, “Going Rogue: An American Life,” was a big item, along with the Twilight series and the Vampire Academy box set. “A lot of ‘Twilight’ fans are buying that as well,” the clerk said of the box set.

And it appeared writers Dean Koontz and James Patterson were holding their own, as usual.

Showtime Music is in a new location and keyboard manager David Runion found business brisk soon after the store opened.

Big items there were the Karaoke with USB and the guitar packs, along with the portable keyboards.

Showtime boasts six teaching studios, allowing lessons in piano, guitar and violin, and soon the store will open a separate room for drum instruction, he noted.

“Everything is one floor,” Runion said of the new mall location. “That gives me an opportunity to sell more.”

— E-mail: mannix@register-herald.com