Shoppers in force for Black Friday

November 29, 1996


Staff Writer

Jane Fields squeezed over on the wooden bench to make room for another weary shopper in Valley Mall Friday, one of thousands in the Tri-State area who turned out for the busiest shopping day of the year.

"I'm not used to doing a lot of walking and my feet hurt," said Fields, of McConnellsburg, Pa., as she wiggled her toes in her flat shoes. Fields, her daughters and granddaughters have made shopping on Black Friday an annual event.

Like most malls and retail stores in the area, Valley Mall opened its doors early on the day after Thanksgiving, which is known in retailing as "Black Friday." Department stores in the mall opened at 7 a.m. with customers waiting outside to get a jump on the crowds. At 5 a.m., people already were lined up in front of stores at the Chambersburg (Pa.) Mall, said General Manager Ron Formosa.


"I was really surprised at the number of people. I'm very, very pleased this year," he said.

About a thousand people were at the mall when stores opened at 7 a.m., he said.

"We got here (Valley Mall) around 9:30. We were late," said Pat Campbell of Hedgesville, W.Va.

Campbell and her two sisters, Shirley Mose of Charles Town, W.Va., and Dolores Bowers of Martinsburg, W.Va., were taking a quick break before their daughters returned to meet them for lunch. This was the second year in a row the three sisters ventured out together on Black Friday.

"We're really enjoying this," Mose said.

"It gives us a chance to get together. We shop and talk a lot and catch up," Bowers added.

Valley Mall's parking lot was full by mid-morning and latecomers meandered through the rows of parked vehicles hoping to find a space close to the building. Several drivers ended up dropping their impatient passengers off in front, banished to find a space on their own.

Traffic also was brisk at the Martinsburg (W.Va.) Mall, said Marketing Director Elaine Bobo.

Shoppers must have been finding what they were looking for because they were in good spirits and carried lots of packages, Bobo said.

"I didn't run into one angry customer this morning and that's really strange," Formosa said.

Inside the malls, people sorted through stacks of sweaters and rows of gloves, most marked down from regular prices, while lines formed at cash registers. Some mothers opted to carry their children while pushing strollers filled with bags and packages.

"It's going fine but it's busy," said Horace Harris, director of public safety at Valley Mall, who was on patrol. Anticipating large crowds, Harris said he doubled security in the mall and parking area on Friday and through the weekend.

Formosa said Black Friday turnout was higher this year because Franklin County's unemployment rate is low. Also, more people might be feeling pressure as Christmas approaches.

"I think people are realizing we have a shorter shopping season," he said. Thanksgiving arrived about a week later than usual.

Though malls were busy and crowded Friday, store managers in downtown Hagerstown reported sluggish sales.

"It's a little bit slow as compared to last year," said Vishwa Nikore, owner of Nik's Gallery, a variety store on Washington Street.

Nikore opened a half hour earlier and extended his evening hours in hopes of attracting more business. But as of mid-afternoon, only a few people had ventured in.

Just down the street at McCrory's, a manager said business was no different than an average Friday.

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