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Businesses prep for holiday rush

Preparations for small and large businesses are well under way for this holiday shopping season and Black Friday.

A recent study from the National Retail Federation (NRF) found that 53.8 percent of holiday customers already began their seasonal shopping, an all-time record high.

Fresno Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Al Smith said that he believes this season is a shorter shopping season since large corporate businesses are opening up holiday sales sooner.

“The traditional shopping season that used to be the Friday after Thanksgiving, or Black Friday, is not so much ‘black’ anymore because a lot of places are already opening up on Thursday instead,” Smith said.

Tracy Kashian, vice president of marketing and public relations at Lance-Kashian & Co., the property management company for River Park Shopping Center, said that some businesses at River Park are opening Thanksgiving evening rather than on the traditional Black Friday at midnight.

“Some of the smaller stores will be open, but the majority are the big box corporate stores that are opening earlier this year,” said Steven Baronian, marketing and event coordinator at Lance-Kashian & Co. ‘Eat turkey, then come out and shop.’

The NRF also estimated that this year’s holiday retail sales will rise by 3.9 percent compared with last year. Smith said he believes holiday sales in Fresno will increase this year.

“I think people have a better attitude this year,” Smith said. “There is more job security and unemployment has dropped a bit. Retail spending is up in certain categories. People who have jobs feel more comfortable about holding onto those jobs, and those who were unemployed last year are partially or fully employed this year.”

Both Kashian and Baronian said the early opening of stores and Black Friday frenzy will attract thousands of customers to the shopping center.

“There was a point where there were a lot of people standing in line for a very long time,” Kashian said. “Well, the stores are opening up earlier so the lines won’t be quite as long outside. It’s a lot of people but it moves very fast, especially now that the stores are opening earlier every year.”

River Park’s Starbucks near AT&T and off of Blackstone Avenue will be opened overnight for almost 48 hours, starting at 5 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day and closing at midnight at the end of Black Friday, store manager Jason Munoz said.

“We’ll get around 1,000 customers or more on Thanksgiving only,” Munoz said. “We’ll probably get around a total of 2,000 to 3,000 people on Thanksgiving and rolling over to Black Friday.

“Amidst all of that holiday madness, we want to be that friendly face and that comfort zone for people to come get a drink while they are shopping.”

Clovis Chamber of Commerce membership director Beth Bridges said she believes it is important to support Fresno’s and Clovis’ local and small business stores this shopping season, specifically “Small Business Saturday.”

“When you do shop local and when you shop in places that are owned here, a much larger portion of your dollar stays inside your community,” Bridges said.

Shopping centers are also hosting several holiday events during the season, from charity donations to honoring fallen loved ones.

Kashian said River Park will have a Christmas tree lighting ceremony on Dec. 4 at 6 a.m. along with flying in Santa Claus on a helicopter.

“It depends on the fog in Fresno, but Santa will fly in on a helicopter and get dropped off.  There will be a small parade afterward on the morning of Black Friday around 9 a.m.,” Kashian said.

To promote small businesses this holiday, Bridges said Clovis Chamber of Commerce is also hosting a small business treasure hunt starting Nov. 30 to Dec. 15. Participants can enter a drawing for prizes after visiting a selection of various businesses on a treasure hunt map.

“It’s a great way to discover local businesses you did not know about, and it’s also a great opportunity to possibly win Christmas presents,” Bridges said.

He said anyone interested in participating in the treasure hunt can visit www.clovischamber.com/treasurehunt.