Retailers cope with big chains’ Thursday openings

KAHULUI – With more stores starting Black Friday sales on Thanksgiving, some small-business owners and managers have begun to “feel the pressure” of having to open their doors early to stay competitive.

“We do feel a lot of pressure, especially because the Lahaina outlets were open last night,” Lisa Agdeppa, Passion 4 Fashion manager, said on Friday. “There was a DJ playing. As soon as midnight hit, the stores started opening. It was crazy.”

The Outlets of Maui in Lahaina, which celebrated its soft opening Nov. 21, kicked off its first Black Friday event with the midnight opening of Tommy Hilfiger, Calvin Klein, Guess, Coach, Izod, Lucky Brand, Michael Kors and other brand-name stores. The rest of the estimated 35 retail shops and restaurants are scheduled to open Friday.

Passion 4 Fashion, a clothing boutique at Lahaina Gateway just a few blocks away from the new outlet mall, opened at 10 a.m. Friday, its normal business hours. Agdeppa said she was against opening the store Thanksgiving Day just to get a leg up on Black Friday sales, because “Thanksgiving is meant for family.”

“It’s really disheartening that huge outlets had to open up when it’s hard for local small businesses already,” she said.

While the small boutique offered a wider range of Black Friday deals this year, Agdeppa said that, as of noon Friday, traffic was about the same as last year.

The store offered a free gift with a $30 purchase, 15 percent off holiday dresses and an additional 10 percent off sale items.

Larger retailers like Wal-Mart and Kmart offered doorbuster deals beginning Thanksgiving night that, as usual, drew long lines of shoppers hours before the stores were slated to open. Old Navy in the Maui Marketplace offered 50 percent off the entire store from 7 p.m. Thursday through Friday, as well as a chance to win $1 million for the first 500 people in line.

Queen Ka’ahumanu Center opened on Thanksgiving for the first time this year, with its anchor stores Macy’s and Sears opening at 8 p.m. Thursday. The center also hosted an “Up all Night @ Queen Ka’ahumanu Center” Black Friday event, with hourly giveaways from 9 p.m. Thursday through 6 a.m. the next day.

Many of the shoppers at Queen Ka’ahumanu Center on Friday morning said they were happy that the stores kicked off Black Friday sales earlier this year.

“It was good because I got my shopping done earlier,” said Wailuku resident Shanelle Sakamoto, who had started her holiday shopping Thanksgiving night and returned to finish shopping the next morning. She said Macy’s had the best deals so far, and she was able to score kitchenware for low prices.

Kihei resident Louise Ventura also stopped to do some shopping at Old Navy after Thanksgiving dinner Thursday “on our way home from a friend’s party.”

“It was just convenient to stop by on our way home,” Ventura said Friday morning as she was shopping at Sears. “The stores opening early also means less of a crowd today (Friday). I didn’t think there was going to be parking (at Queen Ka’ahumanu Center), but there was.”

Black Friday is one of the most profitable days for businesses big and small, if not the most profitable, and it benefits both the retailer and the customer, a shop owner said.

“Ka’ahumanu center is progressive in that a lot of other malls in Hawaii have not responded to the national trend of opening on Thanksgiving night,” said Dane Han, who owns both Kaleidoscope and Findz stores at the shopping center. “Everybody has to raise the bar in discounts because you want to remain competitive, which is also a huge benefit for the consumers.”

Kaleidoscope, which sells stationery, kitchenware and other novelty items, opened around midnight this year and as of noon Friday had already surpassed last year’s Black Friday sales.

But other store owners say the trend of having retail stores open earlier is a trade-off.

“We used to do doorbuster sales just the first few hours after we open, but now we need to do it all day,” Details Boutique owner Marla Mings said.

Last year, the store discounted items 20 percent for the first two hours after opening at 6 a.m. Black Friday. This year, Mings opened at the same time Friday and discounted the entire store 30 percent the entire day, the biggest storewide sale she’s ever done.

“It wouldn’t make sense to do a doorbuster anymore because everyone is opening at different times,” she said. Having other stores at the shopping center open early is “a trade-off” because it ups the competition but also brings more traffic to the mall.

“It has gotten harder to keep up but, because we’re a specialty store, I don’t think we’ll ever be out,” Mings said. “Our regular shoppers come for the new styles, not necessarily the discounts.”

Mings said that while the shopping center gave stores the option to open their doors on Thanksgiving this year, it may become a requirement next year.

Maui Thing Manager Lesley Cummings agreed with other shop owners along Market Street in Wailuku to open one hour before normal business hours on Black Friday – at 8 a.m.

But “we will never ever open on Thanksgiving,” she said.

“We feel our local business can’t compete with Macy’s sale, we know that’s not ever going to be our industry,” Cummings said. She also said that “it’s important that we all get to spend time with our families” on Thanksgiving, which is why store owners have never opened the shop on Thanksgiving Day.

“For us, it’s a reminder of why we’re celebrating that day (Thanksgiving). It’s to be with family and friends,” Cummings said.

* Eileen Chao can be reached at