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LUMBERTON — Local stores were preparing Wednesday for the rush that comes each year with Black Friday sales.

Biggs Park Mall Manager Chelsea Biggs said the mall will be closed for Thanksgiving and reopen Friday. Bath & Body Works will reopen at 6 a.m., but some other retailers will open about 7 a.m. The mall will close at 10 p.m.

“Lumber River Quartet will be there singing Black Friday and Saturday to entertain people while they shop,” Biggs said.

She also said that Santa Claus will make a special appearance Friday and Saturday for photo opportunities. People who have received their COVID-19 vaccines may sit beside or in Santa’s lap this year. In 2020, coronavirus restrictions prevented children from being as close to Santa.

“So, we’re kind of getting back to normal,” Biggs said.

Santa will be at the mall Friday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Biggs said the mall saw a “big dip” in shoppers during Black Friday last year, but sales did not see such dip.

“The people that were out shopping were spending more,” Biggs said.

Bath & Body Works manager Meloria Malcolm said the store has a buy three get three sale on store items.

“It’s been a slow start to Christmas shopping,” Malcolm said.

However, just after 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, the store was slammed with shoppers, she said.

“We got people everywhere,” said Tomlinson’s store manager Donna Davis on Wednesday.

Davis anticipated making a plan of action on Thursday ahead of the holiday weekend.

The store will hold giveaways throughout the day Friday. Hours of operation Friday are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

“I’m gonna have a bunch of specials throughout the day,” she said.

Sales on items include candles, women’s Christmas shirts, men’s coats and more. Several Simply Southern items were in stock on Wednesday ahead of the holiday weekend. The store will not be wrapping gifts this year.

“I think it will be wonderful day for us,” she said of Friday.

“We’re looking forward to having a good year this year and we do thank our customers for shopping local and allowing us to help them,” Davis said.

Belk Store Manager Lonnie McIver said store traffic on Wednesday was above his expectations.

“This store is buzzing with customers,” he said Wednesday afternoon. “You can’t even compare last year to this year.”

McIver said contributing factors such as supply shortages and shoppers who feel safer add to the increase of shoppers.

“I think everybody is in the Christmas buzz and ready to shop,” he said.

Black Friday sales which began on Nov. 19 continued on Wednesday ahead of the holiday weekend.

The store has hired 30 additional people for holiday sales and workers continued to stock shelves with merchandise on Wednesday, he said.

“We are building up our stock levels,” McIver said.

The store will open Friday at 7 a.m. and will distribute gift cards to the first 100 customers in line.

“It’s still an unknown,” he said of Friday. “I do expect it to be very very busy.”

Workers at Thee She Shed, located on Roberts Avenue, were anticipating sales on Friday.

“We just got some things in this morning,” said Store Manager Vickie Pittman.

The store receives new items each day, Pittman said.

“We’re very excited,” she said.

The store will close for Thanksgiving Day and operate Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Items storewide will be sold with a 20% discount during the Black Friday shopping event. The store sells items like clothing, jewelry, home decor and offers personalized monogramming and embroidery.

The store fared well during its first Black Friday event in 2020 and workers anticipate success this weekend, she said.

An annual survey by National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics estimates that close to 2 million more people are expected to participate in Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales when compared to last year. There were 7,837 survey respondents.

“We’re expecting another record-breaking holiday season this year and Thanksgiving weekend will play a major role as it always has,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said.

“Nonetheless, consumers are starting earlier than ever to be sure they can get what they want, when they want it, at a price they want to pay. Black Friday stopped being a one-day event years ago, and this year some consumers started shopping for Christmas as early as Halloween. NRF is encouraging consumers to shop safe and shop early, but retailers are confident they have enough inventory on hand to meet holiday demand,” Shay added.

According to the survey, 30.6 million people are estimated to shop on Thursday with 108 million shoppers planning to flood stores on Friday. The survey predicts a total of 158.3 million shoppers this year, which is 1.7 million more than last year but still below the “below the 165.3 million in pre-pandemic 2019,” according to a NRF press release.

“Among those shopping on Thanksgiving Day, 65 percent are likely to do so in stores, up from 50 percent last year, when worries about COVID-19 were still keeping many people at home. On Black Friday, 64 percent are likely to shop in stores, up from 51 percent last year,” according to the NRF.

“For those shopping during the weekend, deals that are ‘too good to pass up’ remain the top reason, cited by 58 percent, but tradition continued to come in second at 28 percent.”

The survey also found that 46% of people shopped earlier than years past with a total of 61% of respondents stating they had already begun shopping for the holidays.

“NRF forecast last month that holiday sales during November and December will grow between 8.5 percent and 10.5 percent over 2020 to between $843.4 billion and $859 billion – setting records for both the growth rate and total amount spent. Consumers are expected to spend an average $997.73,” according to the NRF.

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