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Black Friday: Boutiques open at midnight? How ‘little guys’ try to compete.

Many small business owners are looking for their piece of the Black Friday retail pie. But experts say trying to match the big stores may not be the best policy, and warn shoppers to do their homework, too.

By Daniel B. WoodStaff writer / November 22, 2012



Sherman Oaks, Calif.

From midnight on Thanksgiving night until 3 a.m., Julia Dvir’s store, “The Closet,” will further discount her jewelry, hats, belts, and purses (already 40-60 percent off). Located just 80 yards up the Fashion Square Mall from Macy’s, the boutique is trying to take advantage of people who will be lined up to shop at the national retailer.

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At the other end of the mall, S.Y.L.K, another women’s fashion retailer just outside Bloomingdales, also is opening at midnight, with the hope that shoppers on the prowl for Black Friday deals at the much larger store will look up and see them as well.

“We want to pull that traffic from the early bird shoppers into our store,” manager Kathleen Moore told the Los Angeles Times.

Faced with the competition posed by colossal deals offered by major retailers – just blocks away from the mall, tents are lined up outside a Best Buy with half-price jumbo TVs for the first 30 in line – smaller retailers and specialty shops are trying to figure out how to get into the Black Friday action.

Burned in past years by setting up their deals too late – and with fully half of their yearly sales on the line between now and Christmas – the nation’s retail “little guys” are realizing that moment can’t wait.

This year, with several giant retailers from Walmart to Target to Toys “R” Us launching major product pushes as early as 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving, the stakes are higher than ever.

“What is at stake for boutique shoppers is the opportunity to take advantage of a consumer’s mindset to shop,” says Roger Beahm, executive director of the Center for Retail Innovation at the Wake Forest Schools of Business in Winston-Salem, N.C.

Smaller shops located at malls are well positioned physically to take advantage of the bigger stores’ promotions, he says.

Consumers “are in a shopping mode and want to get their Christmas shopping done,” he says. “Boutiques should capitalize on this, as it’s something that larger retailers have already built. It’s the mall strategy – anchor stores draw customers in, but boutiques take advantage of increased number of customers eager to buy.”

And he notes that this strategy, “in a broader sense, doesn’t just apply to bricks and mortar.”

Many cities are highlighting special gatherings of smaller retailers – pushing the idea of staying small and “staying local” as a way of boosting the tax base in the community, as well as rewarding the creative, innovative and non-corporate.

“This is a really nice way of honoring the brick and mortar stores, the mom and pop outlets who really can’t compete with the deals of goliath retailers,” says Ron Elkus, of “The Shirt Box” in Farmington Hills, Michigan.

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