The holiday shopping season will officially kick off this weekend as stores open early around the country on Black Friday, before the sales and shopping frenzy continues online with Cyber Monday.
Holiday retail sales are expected to increase about 4 to 5 percent this year, although most of the gain might be experienced by online retailers.
"For Black Friday specifically, there may be lower in-store sales but higher online sales," said Dora Bock, an associate professor of marketing at Auburn University, adding that online spending is expected to grow over 14 percent and reach $145 billion this year.
How much businesses rely on Black Friday depends on the retailer, said Bock.
"Indeed, many retailers and oftentimes small, local businesses rely on a successful fourth quarter to be successful for the year. However, many companies do not necessarily rely on Black Friday specifically," she said. "Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales vary by retailer, so it’s best to shop around and look at the sales different retailers are offering. But, typically, you’ll see better sales on electronics, TVs, appliances or big ticket items on Black Friday, whereas on Cyber Monday, you’ll see better deals on smaller items, and oftentimes clothing."
For those looking to shop locally at Auburn's brick-and-mortar stores, many begin Black Friday sales early — as early as Thanksgiving day, perfect for shoppers who want to check off their lists while walking off that second helping of pumpkin pie.
Walmart in Auburn will start its Black Friday sales at 6 p.m. on Thursday, as will the Auburn Mall, which will open from 6 p.m. to midnight on Thanksgiving and reopen on Friday at 7 a.m. through 10 p.m. If you bring your kids with you, Santa Claus will be at the mall starting Friday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Those aiming to support small businesses in the area will find extended hours and special sales in downtown Auburn for Blue Friday — the downtown merchants' spin on the busy retail day.
Many stores will open their doors at 8 a.m., rather than 10 a.m., and offer doorbusters and all-day specials.
There will also be live music throughout the day, if weather permits. The entertainment district will go into effect at 5 p.m.
Downtown coordinator Jessica Kohn said the day will be one of the largest shopping days for many retailers downtown, not only because of Blue Friday specials, but also because it will be the eve of the Iron Bowl (which happens to take place on Small Business Saturday). Also, parking is free in downtown this weekend because Auburn University is on Thanksgiving break.
"As a nation we celebrate Small Business Saturday this Saturday, which will be Iron Bowl Saturday," Kohn said. "I feel Blue Friday kicks off this month-long celebration of shopping local for the holidays. Then, of course, with the Iron Bowl being at home, that's a huge economic impact on downtown.
"These merchants are staffed to capacity, and they are ready for probably what is their biggest shopping day of the year."
For information on specific downtown specials, find the Blue Friday event on downtownauburnonline.com.