Get ready, Manatee, for a shopping bonanza

MANATEE -- If there’s one silver lining to a years-long recession, it might be the next five days: a selling marathon during which retailers of all sizes and locations are taking their pursuit of holiday shoppers to unprecedented levels.

Retailers are opening earlier, offering steeper discounts and marketing special offers of all kinds to the first shoppers that arrive. Stores that used to just be open for a short time on Black Friday are now opening at midnight Black Friday. Stores that used to open at 10 p.m. Thanksgiving Day are now opening earlier on the holiday itself.

Even small mom-and-pop retailers, like Palmetto and downtown Bradenton’s few retailers, are taking extra steps to lure shoppers. And in-store bargains on Black Friday are being made available online the day before by many retailers or extended throughout the weekend.

“The merchants have really gone above and beyond this year,” says Sarah Ozgun, assistant general manager of Ellenton Premium Outlets, where about 55 of the mall’s 130 stores will be open Thanksgiving evening. “The discounts are even deeper this year.”

This is actually the sixth straight year that Ellenton Premium Outlets is opening at midnight on Black Friday and promoting a mall-wide sale, but it is the first time ever that retailers -- at least 15 of them -- are opening as early as 9 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day. The DeSoto Square mall will open at 3 a.m., with most of its retailers opening at 4 a.m.

The malls are also providing additional security measures -- some visible, some not. DeSoto, for example, will provide security escorts through the parking lot to customers who ask for them.

Kmart opens at 6 a.m. Thanksgiving Day. Walmart, for the first time ever, is bumping its opening time to 10 p.m. Thanksgiving Day. Bealls Department Stores, Target, Macy’s and Best Buy are opening at midnight Black Friday for the first time.

Kohls and JCPenney are both making their Black Friday specials available online Thursday. Kohl’s is also staying open the entire day Black Friday and will offer more than 500 “early bird” specials from midnight to 1 p.m. Black Friday.

Bealls is offering shots at drawings and free holiday ornaments to the first 100 to 150 shoppers at each store.

The shopping frenzy isn’t limited to large retailers, and it doesn’t end Friday. Dabwear, a women’s apparel and natural products store in Palmetto, will be open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and will offer a sliding scale of bargains that peak with 50 percent off from 6 to 7 a.m. and bottoms out with 25 percent off from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Dabwear also will remain open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

A cluster of five small businesses at the Jennings Arcade in downtown Bradenton are pooling together to offer “Black Saturday” in conjunction with the “Small Business Saturday” being held nationwide to encourage shoppers to turn to local retailers.

Chelsie Danz Boutique, Kissed by the Sun, Silver Touch, BC Cutters and Beck’s Bistro will offer specials that play off each other starting at 8 a.m. Saturday. And Friday and Saturday, Rusty Crickett’s Coastal Cottage will offer 10 percent off plus a free gift for every purchase.

“Everybody is concentrating on Macy’s and JCPenney and Walmart,” said Werner Beck, co-owner of Beck’s. “Nothing against them, but we need the small guys, too.”

Christine Hawes, Herald business writer, can be reached at 941-745-7081.

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