Lenny Johnson calls the sound similar to a “stampede of horses.”
The co-owner of Starboard, an apparel store in the Prairie Hills Mall, has been a part of three Black Friday doorbuster sales pushes. Each one has been more interesting than the last, he said, as the mall doors open and customers flood in — some of them running — toward stores looking for deals.
“It is absolutely the craziest thing you will ever see,” Johnson said. “You can literally hear the feet.”
Dickinson’s population has practically doubled in the past five years and many who work in retail businesses said sales have improved during that span.
However, no sales days are more important than “Gray Thursday,” otherwise known as Thanksgiving, and the day that follows, affectionately referred to as “Black Friday.”
Cliff Newby, owner of Newby’s Ace Hardware in Dickinson and Bowman, calls Friday “one of our top five days of the year.”
Melissa Rustan, the owner of Sears in Dickinson, said her store is seeing more business because of the population boom — primarily in its appliance sales, which she thinks means people are buying or building homes.
“We’re a lot busier all throughout the month of November than we were five years ago — especially this year,” Rustan said.
Rustan said last year her store opened at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving for the first time and did well. This year, they’re opening at 7 p.m. after the company mandated all stores be open on the holiday.
“I was surprised at how busy we were on Thanksgiving,” Rustan said. “I was never one who would go out and shop on Thanksgiving, even though there was stores (open). Now I have to be open and sell stuff.”
But for the most part, Rustan said she is OK with that because Sears closes at midnight and reopens at 6:30 a.m. Friday, leading her to believe there won’t be a “mad rush” of early morning customers.
“We’ll find out,” she said with a laugh.
Shoppers and workers
The consumer is who really pushes stores to open the doors on Thanksgiving and offer crazy Black Friday sales, Johnson said.
“We are here to serve the customers,” he said. “Our real boss is the customer and their wants, and the customers are truly the ones that drive when we open.”
Demand by customers to shop on Thanksgiving Day has reached a point where most stores in the Prairie Hills Mall are opening at 8 p.m. today. It’s the first time the majority of the mall, other than Kmart, has ever opened on Thanksgiving. Those that don’t open today are obligated to open at 7 a.m. Friday.
After the mall opens its doors today, it won’t close until 9 p.m. Friday.
Sarah Molnar is entering her second Black Friday at her second store in the Prairie Hills Mall.
The store leader at J.C. Penney was the manager of Maurices last year.
She said some employees volunteered to work this year’s Black Friday opening, but believes it might be because they were the ones who didn’t want to work the overnight shift.
“It is non-stop,” Molnar said. “Actually, most people think it’s very exciting. You have that huge rush of customers. You get to spend all day with those people. For the most part, they are happy to be out and shopping. Most of the customers do remember this is a happy time of year, so it’s actually invigorating.”
Newby said while extra employees are needed for Black Friday, most customers know what they’re doing.
“With the Black Friday sale, people that are coming into the store know what they want,” Newby said. “They have the flyer and they’re going straight for that item. We don’t need a whole lot of staff. It’s just mainly people pointing and filling in product as it goes out the door.”
Dickinson’s Walmart Supercenter, whose corporate office declined to allow its manager to be interviewed for this story, is a priority for most shoppers on Thanksgiving and Black Friday.
Its deals begin at 6 p.m. today and stretch throughout the weekend.
Before becoming the general manager of Newby’s Ace Hardware, Ryan Miller worked as store leader of J.C. Penney in Dickinson and spent 10 years at Walmart — including the years when America’s behemoth general store sparked the Black Friday doorbuster sales craze.
While he laughs about watching mothers and daughters fight over Furbys in 1998, Miller said he never again wants to work on Thanksgiving. Newby said Ace gave the store the option to do so. Instead, they decided to open at 5 a.m. Friday.
“I think we can confidently say that we’ll never do anything crazier than 5 o’clock in the morning on Black Friday,” he said. “There’s no way in heck I’ll ever consider opening up on Thanksgiving Day. People deserve to be with their families.
“As I’ve seen the Black Friday event evolve, it’s fun to see the growth of it, but if I can truly say, I’d say it’s sad to see what it’s done to the family aspect of being together on the holidays.”
Johnson said Starboard is doing something different than most and keeping its Black Friday deals going all weekend, not just for a set time on Thursday or Friday, because many of customers are “transient” workers here for jobs in the energy and construction industries. Johnson said he wants to make sure they get the same deal as everyone else.
“Not everybody gets Black Friday off,” Johnson said. “… They’re working early in the morning. They’re not coming here until later in the afternoon.”
Sarah McLaughlin has been an employee of J.C. Penney for 29 years, spending the bulk of her time with the store in Grand Forks before moving to Dickinson in 2010.
Through the years, she has seen the shopper’s holiday evolve.
Her best advice for consumers this season is to remain patient and be considerate to those who work where they’re shopping.
“The day just gets longer and more frantic,” McLaughlin said. “Being here in Dickinson, where there isn’t a business in town that isn’t shorthanded, hopefully the customers take that into consideration.”