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EARLIER: Stores gearing up for Black Friday

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Retailers going all out to attract customers

By Lisa King

This year, merchants in Shelby County are hoping that Black Friday will be a red-letter day.

Most are holding huge sales targeted for the launch of the Christmas shopping season, which officially gets under way today with a stampede of post-Thanksgiving bargain-hunters hitting the doors early and often in search of rare items and great prices.

But how does recovering from a recession affect retailers' hopes for a profitable season of sales?

Most in Shelby County are optimistic, because they say sales have slowly begun to pick up lately.

"We are anticipating a good day because we have already had a surge this week," said Mike Tracy, owner of Tracy's Home Furnishings, which has been in business on Main Street for 59 years.

He said that in addition to "hot" items like flat screen, high-definition TVs, he also expects smaller items, such as accessories, to be popular this year.

Tracy, like other shop owners this year, is also using additional tactics to attract shoppers, such as offering special touches in addition to the usual sale prices and extended store hours.

For Tracy, it's free local delivery and furniture assembly.

"We will put things together for you, in fact that's what I'm doing right now, putting a dinette set together," he said. "These days, most places ship items unassembled because it's easier and causes less damage to the item. But a lot of people have trouble putting merchandise together, so that's a service we offer."

Metzger's Country Store in Simpsonville also prepared for Black Friday by offering a wider variety of items on sale than usual.

"We will have some things on sale that we never have before," Charlie Metzger said, adding that his store did very well last year.

"We are hoping to do as well this year, but you just never know when you're a small business," he said. "We just hope we don't' get overshadowed by the bigger flashier stores, and we know people are going to go to those. So we hope that after people go buy their big screen TVs, they will come here and buy things for their dogs or cats or horses."

Metzger's will also extend its sale to last through Sunday and is planning a second holiday event to boost sales nearer Christmas.

"We will also be having Customer Appreciation Day on Dec. 19 with dulcimer players and free refreshments and free gift wrapping, in hopes of attracting those customers we didn't get on Black Friday," he said.

Walmart is also expecting a big crowd, said David Woodcock, general manager of the Shelbyville Walmart, who said he is anticipating more shoppers than last year.

"Black Friday is unquestionably our biggest shopping day of the year, and with the way the economy is starting to pick back up, we are anticipating anywhere from two to four percent more sales than last year," he said.

Though the store will have some holiday merchandise on sale, such as Christmas trees and assorted decorations, Woodcock said the biggest selling items this year are expected to be flat screen TVs.

"They are the really hot item this year, and we have some ranging from 19 to 50 inches," he said. "We know that parents will also be buying a lot of toys on Friday, and we have several items that will be drastically reduced."

Woodcock added that shoppers should remember that while some items will be on sale all day on Friday, most will only be on sale from 5 to 11 a.m.

Also, shoppers can only get sales prices by making purchases in the store. Sale prices will not be available online.

Meanwhile, back on Main Street, Glenda Hilling, owner of the Ruby Rooster, a downtown antique shop, said that though sales are usually good during the entire week of Thanksgiving, she hopes to do a little better than last year.

"We are always prepared, and we are playing it by ear this year," she said.

"We usually do well during this week because people are traveling, and they like to get out and do some shopping to stretch their legs," she said.

Hilling added that she has about 50 vendors who are offering a wide variety of items, including vintage Christmas items, which are very popular with shoppers.

Hilling said her shop's specialty to attract shoppers is being able to offer handmade merchandise made right here at home.

"A plus we offer is that most of our stuff is Kentucky made, and a lot of it is made by local people here in the county," she said.

From retailers such as Walgreen, which is offering some toys at half price, to Goody's, which will be offering Black Friday sales all week, stores are all hoping to cash in on holiday spending by shoppers.

"Some things we only have on sale on until the merchandise runs out, and some things can be ordered," said Chris Britt, an employee of Sears Roebuck and Company at Governor's Square.

And at venerable Wakefield-Scearce Galleries there are no Black Friday sales, but the store kicked off the holiday shopping season recently with its Christmas Gala.

Employees there say that they, too, are ready, willing and able to help shoppers find that perfect holiday gift.