SHERIDAN — For the first time in nearly two decades, Radio Shack opened at its regular time of 8 a.m. on Black Friday. There were no frenzied lines shivering outside the door at 5 a.m., waiting restlessly to snatch up that amazing deal.
“Radio Shack does not want to follow the lead of Walmart and those other big box stores being open on Thursday. They’re not doing that to their employees and franchisees,” Sheridan Radio Shack Owner Ryan Franklin said. Though part of the national chain and under corporate guidance, Sheridan’s Radio Shack is locally owned and operated like a small business.
“It’s awesome that Radio Shack is taking a stand and saying Thanksgiving is a holiday for family and giving thanks and not about trying to suck every last dollar out of your pocket,” Franklin added.
Like many owners of small businesses, Franklin said the Christmas shopping season is vital to the success of the store, but that it’s not always about getting a deal on Black Friday.
“Don’t try to spend all your money on Black Friday thinking that’s the best sale day,” Franklin said. “There’s 24 days between Black Friday and Christmas and there will be lots of good sales and pricing in those days.” For many small businesses, the Christmas shopping season is a time to highlight what they offer all year long: personalized customer service, custom orders and unique, high-quality products in a hometown atmosphere.
“A part of our services is our service,” On the Rocks Co-Owner Marisa Olson said. “It’s about sitting down with a customer and talking, not just getting them clerked out.”
Olson said she and her husband Darin take a more honest approach to pricing and avoid playing the discount game.
“The price out here to begin with, that is the lowest price,” Olson said. “We can’t do huge, deep discounts because we don’t mark up to begin with.”
Comparing the marketing approach of big businesses with small businesses is like comparing apples to oranges, Olson said. The big box stores mark up their products so they can constantly advertise a percentage discount, while small businesses price their products at the fairest price possible and advertise other perks like new items or new services such as engraving at On the Rocks, Olson said.
It is up to the shopper to decide what kind of a shopping experience they want.
However, Sheridan County Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Officer Dixie Johnson urged shoppers to stay local because local businesses are the ones that support local school activities and fundraisers.
“We encourage people to think local first when they start doing their holiday shopping,” Johnson said. “Anytime we spend money locally in our community, it improves our community because those dollars turn over multiple times. They go to families, the cap tax and local economic efforts.”
As JC Penney’s Manager Randy Reinemer said, “Our competition is people leaving town.”
Though located on Main Street, JC Penney’s is not locally owned, Reinemer said. It actually opened on Thanksgiving — and stayed open all night long — in order to compete with big box stores like Walmart and Kmart.
While the businesses surrounding JC Penney’s in the downtown corridor may not be able to compete in the same manner, they don’t necessarily mind Black Friday, either. It is a good kick start to the shopping season and reminds residents to get out and shop, Olson said.
However, several small business owners did express dismay at Black Friday creeping into Thanksgiving.
“It will no longer be Black Friday but will be Black Thanksgiving,” Sheridan Stationery Books and Gallery Owner Robby Smith said. “They all want to get the first money. My business is maybe a little different.”
Smith said her biggest shopping day comes later in December but that she will use each of those 25 days between Black Friday and Christmas to offer personalized book recommendations, gift wrapping and customer service that includes good conversation and plenty of one-on-one time.
Smith also stressed that, in Sheridan at least, Black Friday is not all about the early morning deals.
The Christmas Stroll is a fun, family friendly event that is a boon to small businesses around Sheridan, Smith said.
“My first Christmas here there was no one downtown even though we stayed open late on Black Friday,” Smith said. “You could have shot a gun down main street and not hit anyone. So a bunch of us went into a retail meeting and said we need to do something about this.”
The Christmas Stroll was born and is now in its 18th year. Though people don’t do all their Christmas shopping during the stroll, it gets shoppers into the small businesses and keeps them coming back later in the season to buy. Plus, Smith said, it is a festive way to say hello to the holiday and get into the Christmas spirit.
“I hope people come down and enjoy the stroll and remember what a great downtown we have,” Smith said. “Individual businesses are the only thing that make things unique in a community.”