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Retailers brace for discounts bonanza

Bargain hunters: Black Friday sales have proved to be particularly popular at The Phoenix Centre. The store is among many in Bermuda that will open early tomorrow offering big discounts (Photograh by Akil Simmons)

Five years after Black Friday became a significant shopping event in Bermuda, tomorrow’s annual sales bonanza is shaping up to be the biggest yet.

Shoppers and retailers have embraced the US tradition, which is marked by hefty discounts at stores on the Friday that follows Thanksgiving Day.

And along with the discounts, many retailers open much earlier than normal to give the most determined bargain hunters the opportunity to get the best deals.

Sales during the fourth-quarter “make or break” the year for retailers, and Black Friday is a key date, according to Paula Clarke, who represents the retail sector on the Bermuda Chamber of Commerce.

Last December, retail sales hit $111 million, a $20 million rise on the month before, before falling by $30 million in January.

Black Friday is regarded as the turbocharged day that moves the festive shopping period into gear.

“It is one of the biggest shopping days of the year. It has become a real focus in the retail calendar. In years gone by we used to kick off the shopping period with corporate shopping nights and different events, which have evolved into Black Friday,” said Ms Clarke, who is also chief executive officer of Gibbons Company.

“Most savvy retailers see the opportunities that Black Friday represents. We want people to spend money in Bermuda. Retailers work hard to make sure money stays in Bermuda.”

There are conflicting accounts about the origins of Black Friday, with some reports claiming it developed in the US during the early 1930s.

However, according to the A&E Networks-owned History, the post-Thanksgiving Day one-day sales bonanza only became commonly referred to as Black Friday across most of the US as recently as the mid-1980s. The tradition has taken hold, and today more than a hundred million Americans head for the post-holiday sales each year.

Black Friday has spread to many countries and, in 2010, a small number of retailers in Bermuda offered Black Friday-styled deals. However, it was not until the following year that the island fully embraced the tradition, with queues of shoppers camping out during the small hours to ensure they were among the first through the doors when the sales began.

Tomorrow, Gibbons Company will open its doors at 5am, offering a 40 per cent discount across the store, with a few exclusions, up to 10am. Between 10.01am and 8pm the discount rate will be 30 per cent.

Shoppers should prepare for a few extra surprises that will be revealed on the day, such as a number of “up to 75 per cent off” deals.

Ms Clarke said: “There will be discounts in all departments. There will be brand new items.”

With the island gearing up for the America’s Cup next year, and people preparing to welcome house guests or rent out properties, Gibbons’ Company will offer discounts on items such as towels and sheets.

Gorham’s Ltd has stretched its Black Friday offerings across the entire week. It started on Monday, and for the first three days of this week it promoted special offers on a limited range of products. Today and tomorrow are its two major Black Friday sales days, with “big discounts” promised.

This is the second consecutive year that Gorham’s has held a “Black Friday week”.

Andrew Mackay, general manager, said: “It is the official launch of the festive season. It’s like the starting gun for the Christmas shopping period, and gets people in the mood.”

He doubted it was a big money-maker for many retailers, but was more of an opportunity to get customers into the stores to see what is new for Christmas.

While Black Friday is viewed by many as the start of the Christmas shopping season, it is the appearance of Christmas trees for sale that heralds the true start of the festive shopping period, according to Mr Mackay.

“When the real trees arrive, that’s when people realise that Christmas is only a few weeks away. That’s when people really get going.”

Gorham’s expects to take delivery of Christmas trees at the start of next week.

The Phoenix Centre, on Reid Street, and its associated shops have in the past been popular with Black Friday shoppers. The Phoenix Centre, P-Tech, Brown and Co and Annex Toys will open tomorrow at 4am, while iClick opens at 7am.

The Phoenix Centre will offer big discounts all day. Annex Toys and Brown and Co will have tiered discounts, with the biggest bargains at the start of the day, while P-Tech and iClick will have heavily discounted sales items.

Meanwhile, One Communication, formerly Logic and CellOne, will tomorrow give the first 50 customers through the doors of its Washington Mall store a share of gifts valued at $5,000.

The store will open at 5am, offering a $125 smartphone monthly plan deal and devices that include the iPhone SE 16GB and Samsung A5 bearing a $0 price tag.

Brian Lonergan, head of marketing at One Communications, said: “We are fully committed to offering customers the great deals they’ve been looking forward to on the biggest shopping event of the year.”

The company will make its discount offers available at its Southampton and St George outlets during regular business hours.

There will, however, be no night-time queues outside Digicel Bermuda’s store on Church Street tonight. The company was one of the businesses that pioneered Black Friday in Bermuda, but this year it has stepped away from the tradition.

It said it had responded to customers’ preference to have “the best value every day of the year rather than one-off events”.

Earlier this month, Julian Burton, commercial director at Digicel, said: “Our customers have told us they want the best value every day of the year rather than one-off events. The market has moved on since Digicel led the way with Black Friday in Bermuda.”

Of those stores that are running Black Friday promotions, many will open earlier than usual tomorrow and offer customers the deepest discounts in the early part of the day.

Stores running Black Friday offers include Masters, Exclusive Home, Flatts Menswear, Sears, Hunts, Price Rite, English Sports Shop, Jeans Express, Audio Visual Electronics, Sports R Us, Boutique CC, AF Smith, Orange Bay Company and Lusso.