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Wauwatosa's big-ticket sellers brace for Black Friday

But for smaller stores, it's business as usual

Nov. 20, 2012

More than 60 stores at Mayfair Mall will open at midnight on Black Friday, with a handful of others waiting till the wee hours of 3 and 4 a.m. The mall at large opens at 5 a.m., fully five hours earlier than its normal Friday opening time.

Across the street at Best Buy, the doors open at midnight, but shoppers lining up two hours earlier stand a chance at getting a ticket for a specific item giving them dibs on limited-quantity goods. One ticket per customer, please - except for customers wanting 10 items, who can get 10 tickets, one for each item.

The ticket is "not for you to enter," a Best Buy spokeswoman said. "It's to get the item." Anyone can enter without a ticket.

The three days after Thanksgiving, the biggest shopping days of the year, are expected to draw a little smaller crowd this year, according to the National Retail Federation. A preliminary shopping survey shows as many as 147 million people plan to shop in stores or online over the three days. That's down from the 152 million who planned to do so last year.

Changing the game

In a Twitter-saturated era, the landscape has changed.

"The days of waking up Thanksgiving morning to find out what retailers' Black Friday promotions will be has transitioned into an ongoing dialogue between companies and their customers starting days in advance," said Pam Goodfellow, a consumer insights director for BIGinsight, a consumer surveying firm, in a statement.

Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, blogs, emails and mobile apps keep companies and customers in constant touch, she said, in a release on the NRF website. In effect, nobody who cares is not in the know.

Still, standing in line is part of the game.

Best Buy is using the ticket scheme to impose a little order on the frenzy, the spokeswoman said.

"I do know that it will be a lot easier than just having people knocking down the door, trampling each other to get something," she said. "Remember the Tickle Me Elmo fiasco years ago?"

In December 1996, at a Midnight Madness sale at a Walmart in New Brunswick, Canada, a store clerk holding a box of Tickle Me Elmos was set upon by a crowd of 300 people. He emerged with a pulled hamstring, a broken rib, a concussion and injuries to his back, jaw and knee, according to online accounts.

Just a Friday, for some

Little Read Book, at 7603 W. State St., in the Village, is not bracing for a mob.

"We don't really even try to compete with everybody going out for the free VCR or whatever," said Kevin Ptaszek, a clerk.

Friday will be just another normal business day for the bookstore, he said.

Traffic could increase slightly, he said, just because most people aren't working, and the three restaurants nearby - Chancery, Pizzeria Piccola and Café Hollander - draw people past the store.

Robertson's Ace Hardware, at 1417 Underwood Ave., will be opening an hour earlier than usual, at 7 a.m., on Black Friday. The store's weekly advertisement in a local flier offers special discounts on a number of items, clerk Dave Webster said.

Up at Puhl's True Value, 1525 N. 68th St., co-owner Janice Puhl-Przybylski said she's noticed a little blip in traffic in Black Fridays past, but nothing real special. She does have a "a whole slew of things" on sale, which she has advertised, including Christmas items, pliers sets, ladders, drill bits, rotary tools, soap, a musical soap dispenser, scented candles, batteries, and outdoor countdown timers, among other things.

Black Friday isn't known as a day for eating, coming, as it does, after the biggest eating day of the year. Joe Bartolotta, who owns Pizzeria Piccola and Ristorante Bartolotta in the Village, along with seven other restaurants, expects it to be like a normal Friday.

"I don't think we would see a bump at all. … You know, the Black Friday stuff really happens like early in the morning, a lot of it … early in the morning and during the day," he said. "Ironically, I think lot of people are just tired."

At the same time, Thanksgiving brings a lot of visitors to town for the long weekend - family and friends - and, consequently, Bartolotta said, while total business might not be up, "I will tell you the reservations are bigger numbers, larger groups, larger parties this weekend for sure. A lot of eights and 10s and 12s."

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