JACK DURA and BLAKE NICHOLSON Bismarck Tribune
Francis Akazaawie was up earlier than most to be ready when Best Buy in Bismarck opened at 5am for Black Friday.
“I left at 1 a.m. Hettinger time just to get down here on time,” he said as the doors to the North Bismarck store opened.
He was one of many shoppers looking for bargains the day after Thanksgiving, the traditional start of the holiday shopping season. North Dakota retailers in general expect another good season despite challenges like inflation, according to the head of a state trade group. While big stores opened on Black Friday, many smaller local businesses one day looked to Small Business Saturday.
Akazaawie, who had been in line at Best Buy for about 30 minutes, was shopping for phones and watches and planned to check out Walmart for potentially better deals as well. He said he shops in Bismarck every year on Black Friday.
Kyle Hawkbear of McLaughlin, South Dakota stayed in a hotel to get up at 4:30 am to shop at Best Buy. He was looking for computer parts and a gaming monitor.
He said he’s not a regular Black Friday shopper, although he planned to visit Walmart and other Bismarck stores before returning home on Saturday.
The brothers Jack and Hunter Byberg from Bismarck also studied Best Buy.
“Parents gave us some things to buy,” said Hunter, a high school student.
They usually shop on Black Friday every year and planned to visit Walmart, Kohls and Target.
Mandan’s Shawn Shane said he hopes to find good deals on tech products like Apple AirPods and gaming consoles at Best Buy.
Black Friday shopping becomes a tradition for him; last year he was at the Mall of America in Minneapolis.
“Definitely the best time (to buy); good deals on pretty much everything,” he said while waiting in line.
The National Retail Federation projects holiday shopping will rise between 6% and 8% over the course of 2021 — less than last year’s record-breaking 13.5% jump, but higher than the past 10-year average of 4 .9%.
“As consumers feel inflationary pressures and higher prices, and continue to stratify consumer spending and household behavior at different income levels, consumers remain resilient and remain engaged in commerce,” said Matthew Shay, president and CEO of the nation’s largest retail group. “Faced with these challenges, many households will supplement their spending with savings and borrowing to create a cushion and lead to a positive holiday season.”
North Dakota typically sees a slightly larger increase in holiday sales than the national forecast, according to Mike Rud, president of the North Dakota Retail Association. He expects the same to be repeated this year, with a “best case scenario” of 3-4% above the national increase.
“If you’re talking about inflation, we usually do pretty well in North Dakota when those periods hit us,” Rud said. “We are somewhat isolated due to our strong energy field and strong agriculture sector.”
Still, “people are feeling the need,” he said, especially those with household incomes below $75,000 a year, and are looking for holiday deals that are the hallmark of Black Friday.
A record-breaking snowstorm earlier this month disrupted shopping days, but most people don’t believe the holiday shopping season will start before Thanksgiving, according to Rud. And that’s despite the fact that some companies are starting to offer Black Friday deals around Halloween this year, he said.
An estimated 166 million people across the country are expected to shop from Thanksgiving through weekend and Cyber Monday this year, according to the National Retail Federation. Cyber Monday focuses on online retailers.
“There will be sales that are too good to miss and a lot of that is tradition,” Rud said of people hitting the stores this weekend. “A lot of families go out and have Black Friday as a tradition, and a lot of people just want to get out and get around.”
He also noted that “it sounds like it’s going to be a really nice weekend”.
The National Weather Service forecast called for high temperatures in Bismarck-Mandan in the mid-40s on Friday and in the mid to high 30s on Saturday and Sunday with no precipitation.
North Dakotans have generally weathered the coronavirus pandemic, and many likely still have federal COVID-19 aid in bank accounts, Rud said.
“Christmas is still very important to people; they want to give gifts to their loved ones,” he said. “The numbers are looking really positive at the moment. I think the attitude among retailers is pretty positive.”
Rud doesn’t expect staff shortages to hamper business.
“I think most will do everything they can to stay open as long as possible to accommodate customers,” he said, adding that 20% of annual national retail sales are made during the five-week holiday shopping season.
“It’s sort of their harvest time,” said Rud. “The harvest must come in.”
Small business owner on Saturday
Traditionally following Black Friday, Small Business Saturday aims to encourage shoppers to spend part of their vacation budget at smaller local businesses. American Express founded it in 2010 and the US Small Business Administration began co-sponsoring it the next year.
“Now more than ever, small businesses need our support as they continue to battle the long-term effects of the pandemic and transition to stable, steady growth,” SBA North Dakota district director Al Haut said in a statement.
Bismarck Mayor Mike Schmitz this week signed a proclamation urging residents to “support small businesses and merchants on Small Business Saturday and throughout the year.”
The Downtowners Association in Bismarck offers a shopping app and online brochure to promote Saturday deals for small businesses. For more information, see bit.ly/3XmWi5h.
Mandan hosts the annual Shop Hop and traditional Santa Arrival on Small Business Saturday.
Shoppers who visit five or more participating Mandan retailers have a chance to win $500 worth of Mandan Bucks to spend at Mandan stores, as well as other prizes.
The Santa Claus Arrival Parade starts at 12:30pm on Collins Avenue and heads west to Dykshoorn Park and the Morton Mandan Public Library. There will be activities in the park throughout the afternoon and Santa will be in the library from 1pm to 3pm followed by a film.
Main Street from Second Avenue Northwest to Fourth Avenue Northwest will be closed for Saturday’s 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. events. Third Avenue Northwest will also be closed to traffic from Main Street to the alley. Motorists are encouraged to use First Street as a diversion.
For more information, visit www.VisitMandan.com or follow Visit Mandan on Facebook and Instagram.
The nonprofit Sacred Pipe Resource Center is hosting the sixth annual Native Arts, Crafts & Entrepreneur Fair on Small Business Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. in Exhibit Hall C at the Bismarck Event Center. The event has grown from four vendors in its first year to 30 this year.
“We are very excited about the growth of the event and how many artists and small business owners are choosing to get involved and support each other,” said the center’s executive director, Cheryl Kary.