Rusty Richardson, owner of Bernard’s Store for Men in downtown Jasper, said more people patronized his store this year on Friday than compared to last year’s totals.
“It has been crowded; it hadn’t been too chaotic. It’s been just kind of a family reunion. There’s been a lot of people in today that we hadn’t seen in a while and they hadn’t seen each other in a while, and it’s just been a lot of fun,” Richardson said. “Business is real good. We started early, a little earlier than we normally do.”
Bernard’s opened at 8 a.m. Friday and closed at 5 p.m. Richardson said the store offered a promotion from 8 a.m. until 10 a.m. Friday where everything in the store, excluding a few items, was 25 percent off. He also said that from 10 a.m. Friday until the store closes at 2 p.m. today, the store will offer 20 percent off all general merchandise, with a few exceptions. Bernard’s will open at 9 a.m. today.
“We’ve been consistently busy all day. ... People have definitely responded,” Richardson said. “I think that people are still very loyal to us and to Jasper. Sure, you’re going to get some folks that are going to go to Birmingham regardless, but we’re still here because of loyal friends and customers.”
Typically, Richardson said Black Friday is not their busiest time of the year. The last two weeks before Christmas is when the store gets the most business of the year.
“Normally ours will fall the last two weeks [before Christmas] when everybody is getting closer, and they know they can come down. We typically have a big inventory, and they know they can come in and get some selections and sizes and colors that they would like to have,” Richardson said. “They know we’ll gift wrap it for free; we’ll alter it for free; we’ll jump in the car and deliver it for free. People know, I think, that they can count on us to be here and offer everything that they need.”
Customer Jessica Sanders, along with William Walker of New Orleans, was home for the Thanksgiving holiday.
“We got a good discount on our vest,” Sanders said while visiting Bernard’s. “This is always where we come when we come home. ... Any time you’re shopping in downtown Jasper, it’s worth it.
“You don’t have the hassle; you have the best prices in downtown, and you have all family businesses and people who are very friendly, and they have been shopping with you for years,” she continued. “It’s a tradition. That’s why downtown is still on the map and growing.”
Mark Sparks, manager and goldsmith at Young Jewelers, said the jewelry store had a “good and steady” flow of business on Black Friday. This is the busiest time of year for Young’s from now until Christmas with different sales going on. Sparks said the store’s normal hours of operation are from 8:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and Saturdays until 2 p.m., but after today Sparks said they plan on staying open later until 5 p.m. on Saturdays up until Christmas.
“It was a little above average,” Sparks said of the number of customers that visited the store Friday. “Next Tuesday is the Christmas parade down here, and we’ll be staying open later hours for that after 5 p.m. to accommodate everybody that’s coming downtown. It’s exciting that we’re going to have that going on downtown. We look forward to it.”
Beth and Luis Garcia of Texas were visiting Young Jewelers Friday afternoon shopping for their four-year anniversary gifts for each other.
“My husband bought a new watch while we were here, and so I picked out some earrings that are on my wishlist. He said he’ll think about it,” she laughed. “Luis got his watch for 50 percent off. There’s an engagement party that we’re in town for tonight, so we’re just kind of making the rounds and then we’ll go to that. We have to come to Young Jewelers when we’re in town.”
Other large local retailers, like Walmart and Kmart, began their sales late on Thanksgiving Day with specials and prices that had previously been reserved for Black Friday. Crowds flooded those stores and parking lots late Thursday evening, with police and store employees on hand to control the crowds.
At the Jasper Mall, most retailers said they saw crowds for the early morning sales, but by mid- to late-morning crowds had dwindled and merchants were focused on returning order to their stores. Overall, the consensus seemed to be that it was busier in the early morning than last year’s crowd, but thinned quicker and earlier in the day.
Brian Key, manager of Belk, was reorganizing the sales tables set up at the front of the store. He said things had been hectic, but was grateful for the business to open the shopping season. His store opened in the early hours Friday with special sales on merchandise. The store also set up special registers to deal with popular items like shoes and other specials.
“It’s been crazy, but that’s a good problem to have,” Key laughed.