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Retailers crossing fingers for Black Friday
Black Friday - Joy Smiley
Joy Smiley puts decorations up in her Frame Gallery downtown. - photo by Photo by Denise Etheridge
Local merchants are hopeful they will have a profitable holiday season, even in a slow economy. The busy pre-Christmas shopping period will kick off the day after Thanksgiving, known to retailers as “Black Friday.”
Black Friday is often used as a barometer to measure how well retailers, large and small, will do.
Warren Wohlgemuth, store manager for the Hinesville Wal-Mart Supercenter, said the sluggish economy and the deployments of soldiers from Fort Stewart have had a nominal impact on his store’s sales.
“It still has been a successful season up to this date,” he said Monday. “Most of the (military) families are staying. It does affect us, but it isn’t crippling. We’re still having a good year.
 “You still see some high-ticket items being sold,” Wohlgemuth continued. “Every Saturday we have a ‘secret sale’ announced on the Internet. It’s usually the hot items. Go to”
The store manager said shoppers can find deals this year on laptop computers, wide-screen TVs, trampolines and ride-on toys.
Lowe’s Home Improvement Warehouse in Hinesville also expects healthy sales this holiday season.
 “We’re doing fine this year,” said store manager Ed Durham. “We’re expecting a good Black Friday. We have a lot of all-day specials.”
Durham said Lowe’s will offer deals this season on tools and Christmas decorations. He said large and small appliance sales are up and stocking stuffers like flashlights and hand tools are selling well. 
“We’re also selling a lot of grills, both charcoal and gas,” Durham said.
Lowe’s will open at 6 a.m. Friday, the day after Thanksgiving.
Hinesville’s downtown retailers anticipate healthy sales for the holidays, especially with more people choosing to “stay home” and shop locally.
“The businesses tell me it’s been really solid the last two weeks,” said Vicky Davis, Hinesville Downtown Development Authority director. “We are hopeful business will continue to be good for Black Friday and from now through the 21st of December. We anticipate more people are staying home and shopping locally.”
Davis said the high gas prices that hit American drivers last year, along with family friendly community events, have drawn more shoppers to Hinesville’s downtown this year.
She said local businesses will next participate in Christmas in the Park to be held from 5-8 p.m. on Nov. 30. About 3,000-5,000 shoppers are anticipated to attend the annual event sponsored by the Liberty County Chamber of Commerce and the Hinesville DDA.
A scavenger hunt for Christmas ornaments is another retail promotion downtown merchants are participating in, Davis said.
“It does a good bit to keep people circulating from store to store. Customers look for the ornament and if they find it they can then fill out an entry form to win a gift at that store,” she explained. “
The gifts will range from $50-$400 in value, according to Davis. The drawing for the in-store winners will be held on Dec. 17. A grand prize drawing for a $500 shopping spree will be held on Dec. 18.
Downtown merchants will keep their doors open until 7 p.m. on Thursdays during December, Davis said.
Mike and Joy Smiley, who own Joy Marie’s and The Frame Gallery, said their downtown store hasn’t seemed to be affected by the recession and they expect a busy Black Friday. The business has been a Hinesville mainstay for 23 years.
“Business has been good,” Mike Smiley said. “I haven’t seen any type of recession at my store. My prices are low; I’d rather sell quantity.”
The Smileys said Christmas ornaments and floral arrangements are selling well this year, as are personalized gifts. Joy Smiley said she will soon be able to monogram items for customers as soon as her new embroidery machine arrives.
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