VIENNA - Officials with Grand Central Mall say comfortable shoes, careful research and a buddy are important steps for getting the most out of this year's Black Friday sales.
This Friday the mall will have its first midnight opening for Black Friday, with more than 90 stores expected to offer special deals for early-morning shoppers.
"Black Friday this year is going to be different than it's ever been at Grand Central Mall, said marketing director Katrina Stephens. "Last year we had a handful of stores, maybe 15-20, that wanted to do midnight sales, but we really had no way to get information out to the public in time. This year we polled our stores and more than 90 percent wanted to open at midnight. This year we planned way ahead for a midnight opening."
Photo by Michael Erb
The halls of Grand Central Mall will be packed early Friday morning as Black Friday shoppers gather for a midnight opening of stores.
The Grand Central Mall emailed a newsletter Wednesday to potential shoppers, offering a handful of tips for the frantic holiday sales. Stephens said with the crush of shoppers planning on attending Black Friday sales, deal seekers also need to plan ahead.
Among the mall's Black Friday tips:
* Wear comfortable shoes.
Black Friday sales mean lots of walking within and between stores and lots of standing in line. Wearing the right shoes can mean the difference between sprinting or limping.
"This is a good one," Stephens said. "I can tell you, from experience, as a manager, we are running all around the store, and so is everyone else. If I am ever dumb enough to wear heels on Black Friday, I am feeling it for days after.
"You definitely have to remember the comfy shoes. I figure we'll see more than a few people in their pajamas, too."
* Do your research.
Nearly every store this holiday will be offering some sort of Black Friday deals. Knowing what you want and the best place to find it can save you some frustrating runaround and missed opportunities.
"The Internet definitely has brought information on sales to people's fingertips. With smart phones you are going to see a lot of people mapping out their routes ahead of time and checking online for deals," Stephens said.
The Grand Central Mall is compiling Black Friday sales and specials on its Web site, and Stephens said as stores announce new deals, the site will be updated.
"I imagine we will be updating it 10 or more times just today," she said Wednesday. The lists can be found at www.grandcentralmall.com by clicking on the "Black Friday" link.
* Bring a buddy.
Not only does shopping with a friend provide some built-in entertainment and social time, it also can help you get to multiple areas of a store at the same time.
"People tag-team a lot of the stores. You go find that special deal, I will go find this deal and we will meet in the middle," Stephens said. "A lot of people enjoy doing this with their mom, daughters, friends. It's social and it's fun."
* Get some extra sleep.
With midnight openings come long nights of planning and waiting. Officials say make sure you get a nap ahead of time, and if at all possible a good night's sleep the night before.
Stephens said safety is a major focus during the holiday sales.
"Safety is always something to remember," she said. "Know where your purse is, know where your packages are. Park in well-lit areas, use the buddy system, and keep packages in the trunk of your car and out of plain sight."
Stephens said security will be on patrol at the mall and will help shoppers whenever possible, as will mall administration.
The mall offers free shopping bags at its guest services desk in the center of the mall, as well as wheelchairs and strollers.