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Retailers get jump on holidays

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The Friday after Thanksgiving is the traditional beginning of the holiday shopping season.

The day is known as Black Friday because retailers count on big sales that day to balance their books and get their ledgers out of the red.

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But some businesses are offering pre-Thanksgiving sales to extend the good times.

For example, Herberger's and JCPenney in the Paul Bunyan in the Paul Bunyan Mall have moved their promotions up to the days before Thanksgiving.

Managers Chris Lucas of Herberger's and Mike Beard of Penney's said they have held the early sales for several years. But Beard said he thinks people are paying more attention this year, as well as shopping for more practical gifts.

Some locally owned stores in downtown Bemidji are waiting for the day of the Night We Light, but others are also offering pre-Thanksgiving specials as well as extended shopping hours.

Debbie Hole, tuxedo manager at Patterson's Men's Wear, said the Friday hours would be the regular 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., but the store would be open an hour later than usual Saturday and open from noon to 4 p.m. Sunday when the store is normally closed.

Jeweler Dale Thompson of Ken K. Thompson Jewelry said he noticed some years ago that businesses were putting on early sales.

"Everybody is trying to get their name out there some way," he said.

Thompson said his store started early gold trade-in and will be open at 7 a.m. Friday with sale prices on diamond jewelry.

"We've got our door-buster specials between 7 (a.m.) and noon," he said.

Herberger's will open at 3 a.m. Friday; Penney's will open at 4 a.m.; and Target will open at 5 a.m. Wal-Mart is open 24 hours every day. Target is closed on Thanksgiving Day, as are the Paul Bunyan Mall stores, except for Kmart, which will be open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Mike Smith, owner of MJB Home Center, said he put on a big pre-Thanksgiving sale last week to get ahead of "the big boys really armed up for Black Friday."

"To be honest, Black Friday is not a big day for me and my business," he said.

He said sales usually pick up toward Christmas.

"I call it a more practical side of Christmas," he said, noting that couples sometimes decide to give each other appliances they need rather than luxury items for Christmas.

Beard said he has noticed people are more interested in basic merchandise such as jeans and sweatshirts this year, and they're watching for bargains.

"We've cut out some of the novelty gifts this year," he said. "We think people are going to be more practical. They are scrutinizing prices more than ever in my 31 years (with Penney's). And who in Minnesota wouldn't appreciate a sweatshirt?"

For example, he said a novelty item offered last Christmas was a giant TV remote control. That is not on the shelf this year, he said, and the displays along the main aisle are small kitchen appliances.

He said the trend is people enjoying cooking for themselves and spending more time at home. Slow cookers are especially popular, Beard added.

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