Black Friday Yields Mixed Results for Area Businesses

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Though Black Friday is traditionally marked by big sales and large crowds, small businesses in Berkeley had mixed feedback following this year's post-Thanksgiving shopping day.

Sale promotions, or lack thereof, did not seem to significantly increase the bottom line locally, as businesses reported more or less normal selling activity on Friday, despite sales increasing 0.5 percent nationwide from the previous year, according to major media outlets.

Sarah Whaley, an associate manager for Buffalo Exchange on Telegraph Avenue, said the store attempted to draw customers with a karaoke machine and additional discounts but found business to be even slower than normal for a Friday.

"Everyone just likes going to the mall (on Black Friday)," Whaley said. "And I think that the Berkeley culture doesn't like to get as involved in spending sprees."

David Brazil, an employee at Moe's Books on Telegraph Avenue, said while business is usually "somewhat unpredictable," the store was busier on Friday despite a lack of special promotions.

"We had a pretty brisk Black Friday," Brazil said. "It was a good day for sales."

Mars Mercantile on Telegraph Avenue also did not have any promotions, but sales associate Grace Frinvell said more customers shopped at the store than on a typical Friday.

"Usually it's not one of our bigger sale days, but we did pretty well," she said.

Jeremy Cohen, a UC Berkeley senior and sales associate at Avant Card on Bancroft Way, said the foot traffic was likely influenced by the lack of students in the city over Thanksgiving break.

I think in light of the holiday weekend, we had fewer customers," he said. "But a few customers ... bought a lot of cards. Business wasn't bad in terms of revenue, but it was slow."

In addition to Black Friday, some Berkeley businesses participated in "Plaid Friday," a promotional campaign billed as an "independent business alternative," according to co-creator Kerri Johnson.

Johnson, who is also co-director of Blankspace Gallery in Oakland, said Plaid Friday was an overall positive experience that generated a greater awareness of local small businesses in the East Bay.

But Johnelle Mancha, who owns Mignonne Decor on San Pablo Avenue, said her store participated in the Plaid Friday campaign but found business was not particularly better or worse than Black Friday sales in the past.

"There wasn't a huge difference," Mancha said. "But ... people were very receptive to the concept of supporting small business."

Despite the difficulty in generating what Johnson calls "awareness," Deborah Badhia, director of operations of the Downtown Berkeley Association, said local small businesses know how to stay afloat.

"We know that the Berkeley public appreciates the retailers and do support them," she said.

Beyond a lack of customers and awareness, there may be other reasons for slower business in Berkeley on Black Friday.

Caroline Pulvino, an assistant manager at Blick Art Materials on University Avenue, said that the rainy weather also affected business. She added that while the store was as busy as she expected it to be, it was not busy for a long amount of time, which she attributed to the weather.


Contact Denise Poon at [email protected]

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