Those of you who were standing in line for our big Black Friday sale in 2009 know very well how we ended up with a city-wide Black Friday promotion for little o’ Alexandria. But if you don’t, here’s a bit behind this very unique experience.
I love the day after Thanksgiving. When I was in college, I would get up early and leave my parent’s house to head to the local mall. I would grab a coffee and sit outside the hottest stores – the toy store, Best Buy, etc. I would just watch. Eventually after all the madness settled, I did some shopping. Getting a good deal was important on my college student / waitress budget. But mostly I found the day fascinating. The people watching was amazing.
When I opened fibre space, I wanted to do something big and exciting. I knew that our margins wouldn’t allow for frequent sales so having two big sales a year made sense from a business perspective. The first is our anniversary, of course. I decided that our second big store-wide sale should be Black Friday. I talked to my neighbors about what they did for this day. I heard the same thing over and over again – it’s a super slow sales day. They didn’t think that people would shop in Old Town on the day after Thanksgiving. Some didn’t even open their doors!
I decided to move forward with our plans anyway, knowing that yarn lovers would come out for a big sale at 6 am, whether my neighbors were open or not. 30% off the entire store was an amazing deal. And you did come out…
The response was overwhelming. You all had fun hanging out waiting to get inside (since our fire code capacity was maxed out within minutes). You enjoyed getting the discount too! And our staff had a total blast. It quickly became one of our favorite days of the year. Former staff come back to work Black Friday year after year. (If you are missing Kim, you will see her here bright and early on Friday!) Our instructors do too! Friends have also come out to help with the door / head count or to assist in giving loyalty program stamps at the register.
And what about the rest of Old Town? Well after they saw our success, a few joined us that second year. We asked you all to head to our neighbors when you were done at our shop, and you did. The day grew into an amazing sales day for them as well and now it is a city-wide event that over 35 stores participate in.
So why are we doing it?
Even with all the backlash against Black Friday, we will continue to host our annual sale. As the big box stores continue to make the day more and more hectic and focused on chaos, we will continue to remind you that this day is about supporting your locals and having an experience like none other. If you shop in Old Town on Black Friday, you are most likely going to be rung out by the shop owner herself. You will find employees wearing pajamas and sipping coffee and chatting excitedly. You will meet our community, your neighbors. You will find amazing brands and specialty items, curated by one person, one shop owner. The entire experience is different. I like to think that we have an experience that will attract those who hate the entire concept of Black Friday as well as those who have a long history of shopping on that day with their family.
And most importantly, this day means a lot to the small businesses here. The day after Thanksgiving is the start of the holiday season. It is the kick off to our busiest time of year. For some retailers, it is the start of when we will make a profit, turn from operating “in the red” to operating “in the black.” To kick off your holiday season in Old Town (or wherever is local to you), is a way to keep those holiday shopping dollars in your own city or state. The impact of that goes far beyond just the shop keeper who owns and depends on that business for their livelihood. It also has an impact on their employees, your city government and so much more. For every $100 spent in a local store, $68 of that will stay right here. When you shop at a chain, only $43 of that $100 stays here.
So if you are a loyal Black Friday shopper in Old Town, thank you! If you have avoided it because of the crowds, I would encourage you to give it a chance this year. And if Black Friday has always been an experience that you spend at Tysons or Pentagon City, I would encourage you to shift your shopping this year. I think you will be delighted with what you find on our brick sidewalks at 6 am 😉