November 2015: Business Tech Bytes

Fine tune mobile for the holidays

VanHoesenWSince Thanksgiving Day has now become the new Black Friday, you need to be serious about when the holiday shopping season really starts. Nowadays between football games and the second helping of pecan pie, your customers are busy browsing, mostly on their mobile devices, for the “real deals.” Last year, Thanksgiving Day saw the highest sales growth of the whole Thanksgiving holiday weekend. [Read more…]

Thanksgiving Day shoppers choose tablets over turkey

Thanksgiving is a day of abundance, tasty food and being with family and friends — but it also marks the first leg of a three-day binge for dedicated discount-hunting Black Friday shoppers.

“We’ve been here since midnight,” said Colleen Woodsid. Mrs. Woodsid, Alicia Passage, and Kylie Rasmussen were at the front of a line of more than 100 people waiting to enter Kmart on Thursday when the doors opened at 6 a.m. Mrs. Rasmussen said they made the trip from Carthage when she got a call from a friend saying there were already 30 people in line outside the door, but when they arrived there was no one.

She wasn’t sure if it was the cold weather that drove people in line away or if her friend was mistaken. In any case, the three women stayed and waited out in their car until the line began to build in advance of the store’s opening.

Mrs. Passage said she has been coming to Kmart and doing Thanksgiving shopping for more than 30 years. On Thursday morning she was in hot pursuit of tablets for $30, bedding, hunting gear, slippers, jeans, Christmas pajamas for kids and family, toys and Christmas decorations.

“I do it to beat the Thanksgiving crowd. We have a three-day haul and I break it down into lists of the things we want and the stores,” said Mrs. Passage. “We’ll be back tonight because of the pots and pans.”

As far as a meal with a turkey and all the trimmings, Mrs. Passage said she schedules her holiday dinner for the Saturday after Thanksgiving every year.

Mrs. Rasmussen said she has been going with her mom for the three-day Black Friday shopping spree since she was 15 years old.

“I’ve been doing this 11 years and people can get crazy,” said Mrs. Rasmussen. “Some people will try and snatch stuff out of your carts, and I learned you’ve got to be mean about it.”

For the past 17 years, Sandra Floetenmeyer, associate manager at Big Lots, Watertown, has been working the Thanksgiving shift. And although things tend to get hectic during the year’s busiest shopping weekend, Mrs. Floetenmeyer and her staff make an effort to stay upbeat.

“It gets busy. You get swamped at times, but we try to have fun,” she said. “It’s a party.”

Mary M. Dyer and her fiance, Christopher R. Bucher of Chaumont, were second in line at Kmart on Thursday morning. Miss Dyer and Mr. Bucher said they came with one mission when they headed for Kmart: a 46-inch flat-screen television. Mr. Bucher said they are going to get married this summer and want the television for when they get a new place to live.

“This morning has been very calm, we got the first TV and there wasn’t a mad rush,” said Mr. Bucher.

Sarah Coates, who traveled from Ottawa just for the Black Friday sales, said on Thursday morning everything seemed calm and people were being very respectful, but that hasn’t always been the case.

“Last year six fights broke out in Walmart in the toy department,” said Ms. Coates. “Not a good lesson for kids.”

Another year, she said a man took his shopping cart and grabbed armfuls of DVDs and then left the aisle. She said he went to another aisle and browsed through the DVDs in his cart. After picking out the ones he wanted, she said he abandoned the shopping cart and left.

Ms. Coates said that when shopping during the Black Friday sales, the inexperienced shopper misses out on the deals.

“You can’t browse shop; you have to have a plan and know where you’re going,” said Ms. Coates.

One strategy of Black Friday shopping, Ms. Coates said is, to have one person get in line with a cart and have everyone else grab what they need and bring it to the cart when the lines get long.

“I get a kick out of watching people in line,” said Ms. Coates. “They get feisty.”

“This is why you do it — it gives you an adrenaline rush and also gets you in the Christmas spirit,” said Mrs. Passage. “This is where you save money with a big family.”

Near the very front of a massive line that wrapped around Watertown’s Target store was Susan Lawrence, Kingston, who had been patiently waiting — despite the snow and sub-freezing temperatures — since 12:30 a.m. to take advantage of electronics deals that cannot be found in Canada.

“It’s the price and variety. And our Thanksgiving was a month ago,” she said, referring to Canadian Thanksgiving, which is held on the second Monday of October.

Robert Hall, Theresa, said he came to buy a 40-inch television that was on sale at Target Thursday for $119.

He had been waiting in line for five hours, but said the savings are well worth the time invested.

“This is better than waiting in line at 4, 5 in the morning on a Friday,” he said.

Times staff writer Jaegun Lee contributed to this report.


By Katherine Clark Ross, Times Staff Writer

Hospitality industry readying to get swamped on Black Friday

Even the most zealous shoppers need a break on Black Friday to refuel with coffee and food, or to get their hair done.

That’s when businesses in the hospitality industry step in, opening their doors to serve customers who take a time out from buying the latest gadgets and trendy apparel on the national shopping day.

In Massena, a hot spot for hungry shoppers is Vino Vidi Vici, an Italian restaurant owned by Tarek and Crista M. Makdouli at the Harte Haven Shopping Plaza.

Mrs. Makdouli said she recommends that customers make reservations for the restaurant, which is flanked by T.J. Maxx, because it otherwise could be a challenge to find a table.

The restaurant is a major draw for Canadians who cross the border to shop in Massena, Mrs. Makdouli said.

“I would say they account for about 40 to 50 percent of our business on Black Friday,” she said. “They’re looking for a meal after they shop. And we always find that we’ll have a bunch of guys come in while their wives are shopping at T.J. Maxx. The husbands are looking for a nice lounge to crash at.”

Mrs. Makdouli estimated that business at the restaurant, open for nearly three years, has climbed by about 15 percent on Black Friday compared with a typical Friday.

And Vino Vidi Vici isn’t alone in the shopping-season buzz.

Dunkin’ Donuts, 1250 Arsenal St., Watertown, will open at 5 a.m. on Thanksgiving and stay open until midnight Saturday, keeping the same hours that were established last year to capitalize on the earlier shopping trend, manager Colleen Precourt said. The special hours are available only at the franchise’s Arsenal Street location because it draws the most Black Friday traffic, she said.

“We’ll have nine employees here the whole time,” Ms. Precourt said.

Five people work at the doughnut shop during a typical shift.

“We’re going to be ready,” she said.

Employee Isabella K. Keenan, who worked at the Dunkin’ Donuts on Black Friday last year, said the drive-thru lane that wraps around the store was jammed “all day long.”

To accommodate longer lines, traffic flows into the neighboring parking lot used by Pearle Vision, she said.

“On a normal day you can tell when there are spurts of traffic, but you can’t know that on Black Friday because it never stops,” she said, adding that “copious” amounts of coffee, sandwiches and boxes of doughnuts are sold that day.

Several big-box retailers will kick off the Christmas shopping season on Thanksgiving night, two or more hours earlier than they did last year.

Some shoppers might even adjust their dinner plans to wait in line at J.C. Penney, Sears, Kohl’s, Target and other stores.

Vina A. Bonner of Watertown said she’ll be hunting for a 70-inch smart television at Best Buy in Salmon Run Mall on Thanksgiving after her 10-year-old daughter and 3-year-old son go to sleep.

“I might buy one of the new curved TVs,” she said. “I think the savings will be great.”

Meanwhile, the Kmart off Arsenal Street will open at 6 a.m. on Thanksgiving, which it started doing in 2010. Walmart on Arsenal Street will remain open 24 hours, but its best doorbuster deals will be from 6 to 8 p.m. on the holiday itself. The retailer also has locations in Evans Mills, Lowville, Ogdensburg, Potsdam and Massena.

As a matter of principle, Watertown resident Darlene D. Sheitz said she has never shopped on Thanksgiving to get deals. She said she might this year, though, because a Samsung smart tablet she wants for $50 at Best Buy could be sold out by Friday.

“I don’t want to be in stores on Thanksgiving, but I might have to,” she said. “If stores are going to open on Thursday, why are they still calling it Black Friday?”

The people who shop on Black Friday, waiting in the long lines to pay for their deals, also could have a wait for meals.

The line at Panera Bread on Towne Center Drive, Watertown, usually extends from the counter to the entrance on Black Friday, manager John H. Dillenback said. The fast-casual restaurant will be open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. after opening at 3 a.m. on that day in previous years.

“We didn’t get the sales we expected at 3 a.m. last year, and I think it’s because people are shopping on Thanksgiving and then getting out later on Friday morning,” he said. “About 9 a.m. is when we really start to see the traffic flow.”

From the customers’ perspective, Mr. Dillenback said, the restaurant strikes an appealing balance between fast-food restaurants such as McDonald’s and sit-down establishments such as TGI Fridays. Customers can order a cup of coffee and quickly fill it themselves using dispensers at the restaurant, which seats about 250 people.

Plus, Panera’s location, next to large retailers, helps make it a quick-hit destination for shoppers, Mr. Dillenback said. The restaurant is flanked by the likes of Bed, Bath & Beyond, Old Navy, Kohl’s and Target.

“It’s busy here all day long and doesn’t stop, but we keep the line moving,” he said, adding that about 30 employees will work the Black Friday shift.

Shopping breaks don’t just involve food and beverages, though.

Groups of women often get their hair done on Black Friday at Supercuts on Towne Center Drive, manager Elizabeth Shampoe said. She said the business, which opened during the spring of 2013, is expected to lure more shoppers this year because more people know where it is.

Though the store will hold normal hours from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Black Friday, all six of its hairdressers will work the shift — up from two on a regular day.

“Usually at about 11 a.m., it starts to get really busy because people have been shopping all day and want a break to have their hair cut and dry-ironed,” Ms. Shampoe said.

Not all businesses, however, have benefited from the recent trend of retailers opening on Thanksgiving instead of the early morning on Black Friday.

In Lewis County, Lloyd’s of Lowville, a diner on South State Street, used to get barnstormed with shoppers when it opened at 5:30 a.m. for breakfast, manager Melissa A. Zehr said. But she said most shoppers now go home to sleep after doing their shopping earlier on Thanksgiving night.

“People used to run up to Walmart at 3 o’clock in the morning, and as soon as they were done shopping they would come here and eat on their way home before going to bed,” Mrs. Zehr said. “But now they don’t need to wait in line to do that. We’re still busy on Black Friday, but it’s not like it used to be.”


By Ted Booker, Times Staff Writer

Shoppers head to the stores Thanksgiving night

Old Navy cashiers Sadie J. Boshert, center, and Samantha L. Deal, right, check out customers Thursday night. Justin Sorensen / Watertown Daily Times

Old Navy cashiers Sadie J. Boshert, center, and Samantha L. Deal, right, check out customers Thursday night. Justin Sorensen / Watertown Daily Times

As turkey dinners and family gatherings wrapped up on Thursday, shoppers took to their cars and drove into the cold Watertown night. There were deals to chase.

Big box retailers including Walmart, Target and Kohl’s as well as the major stores in the Salmon Run Mall kicked off their Black Friday sales on Thanksgiving evening. Discounts led shoppers to pack the stores, and many people planned an all-night bargain-hunting blitz. At Best Buy in the mall, more than 100 stood in line during the final hour before the store opened at 6 p.m.

Javier Morales, of Fort Drum, said he was expecting a rush of people as he pursued a television and Playstation 4 with his friends Joshua A. Olson, Evans Mills, and Aaron Gutierrez, Fort Drum.

“I’ve been playing Madden,” he said, referring to the popular football video game. “A couple spins, jumps, no problem.”

Many of those shopping at Best Buy and other Watertown department stores Thursday night were Canadians who traveled south for lower prices.

William Hughes, who came from Kingston, Ontario, to shop for computer gear such as monitors, said he could save as much as 35 percent by making the trip to Watertown.

“We know what the prices are at home, and we know what the prices are down here,” he said.

Immediately behind him in line, Linda M. March interjected that she planned to go back to Ottawa with a car full of purchases.

“You’ve got to go somewhere to get a good deal,” she said.

As Best Buy opened, customers entered in staggered groups of 20.

Store general manager Dannielle M. Richardson said safety was key, as she directed customers toward televisions, computers and video games.

Stocking for the weekend was a process months in the making. Now that the big night was finally here, “it really is controlled chaos,” she said.

Among the bargain hunters were Narayan Poudyal and Sudeep Khadka, of Fort Drum. The pair said they saved about $500 in buying two computers and a television.

“We found the deal,” Mr. Poudyal said.

Many families could be seen shopping together.

Waiting in line before the 8 p.m. opening at Target, Theresa S. Thilges and her son Andrew, 14, both of Watertown, said they made their decision to shop over dinner.

“This is fun, too,” she said. “We can talk about the year we lost our toes.”

Over at Walmart, Kristy M. Perez of Watertown left the store with her mother, Carol A. Graveline, and daughter Hannah C., 13, with bags of items.

“I’ve got my family here,” she said. The three had a few more stores to hit before the end of the night, she said.

However, not every shopper was enthusiastic about the chilly wait.

Tammy Clark of Adams Center said she thought the timing was a little early, as she waited about two hours before the 8 p.m. opening of Target. She said she preferred the early Friday morning shopping, which affords time for a little sleep.

“I’m not excited about it, but I’m here,” she said. Ms. Clark and her daughter Amanda A. Pike said they were looking for a deal on a Keurig coffee maker and a Shark Mop steam cleaner, and by shopping Thursday they expected to save up to $150.

Was it worth the cold? “With the amount of money you save, yes,” Ms. Clark said.

The holiday all-night shopping was a family affair, with relatives spread throughout multiple stores, Ms. Clark said. Her other planned stops included Kohls, Sears, Bon-Ton and J.C. Penney, where she hoped to purchase a globe available only after 4 a.m.

Many stores are scheduled to remain open through late tonight.

-Gordon Block, Watertown Daily Times

Black Friday becomes Thanksgiving Day affair as retailers open on holiday

Owen K. Pardy and Stephanie Fournier of Stittsville, Ontario, exit Kohl's after shopping Monday in Watertown.  "We're doing it now to avoid black friday," Ms. Fournier said. Justin Sorensen / NNY Business

Owen K. Pardy and Stephanie Fournier of Stittsville, Ontario, exit Kohl’s after shopping Monday in Watertown. “We’re doing it now to avoid black friday,” Ms. Fournier said. Justin Sorensen / NNY Business

Only one choice for Black Friday.

At least that’s what banners tell shoppers entering Kohl’s department store on Towne Center Drive, which opens on Thanksgiving Day at 8 p.m. —four hours earlier than last year. Kohl’s is among a few big-box retailers copying each other this season by opening before Black Friday technically begins. It’s a trend that shoppers have mixed feelings about.

“Kohl’s is selling headphones that my daughter wants for $20 off, but on Thanksgiving night only,” said Sandra J. Cavellier, 51, who was shopping Monday at the store. “Now I’m not going to buy them here, because standing in line isn’t worth $20 in savings. I feel sorry for people who have to work.”

Some families are boycotting Thanksgiving Day sales altogether.

“My family is staying home,” said 25-year-old Ember M. Riedel, another shopper at Kohl’s Monday. “It’s important family time, and we’re going to cheer on the Dallas Cowboys.” [Read more…]

Retailers rev up sales to open early for Black Friday

Amelia G. Small, assistant manager at Deb in the Salmon Run Mall, helps a customer Tuesday. Photo by Justin Sorensen.

Instead of rising in the wee hours of the morning, those seeking to get a jump start on Black Friday shopping in Watertown may do so Thursday night after capping off their Thanksgiving as stores are opening earlier this year.

And shoppers should have plenty of Canadians to compete with in checkout lines as hotel managers on Arsenal Street — where shopping will be concentrated — say their rooms are booked.

To lure more traffic, giant big-box stores and other retailers are electing to open their doors earlier for Black Friday this year. Sears and Walmart are breaking new ground by opening at 8 p.m. Thursday, for example, while Target will kick off its sales at 9 p.m.

[Read more…]