Holiday shoppers can once again expect big savings on Black Friday, especially with sales kicking off even earlier this year on Thursday, followed by Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday.
The Belk in Cape Coral and the Walmart on Del Prado Boulevard are among the growing list of businesses opening their doors a couple hours earlier this Thanksgiving for gift givers ready to check items off their shopping list. Belk opens at 8 p.m., and the Walmart deals go into effect at 6 p.m.
"This will be our first time," Cathy Norwood, store manger of the Belk, said of the early opening.
Last year, the department store opened to the public at midnight for Black Friday.
"It was really a business-focused decision," she said. "The customers wanted us to be open."
After opening Thursday evening, Belk will remain open until 10 p.m. Friday.
"We'll stay open all the way through," Norwood said.
The first 250 customers will receive a Belk gift card valued at $5 or more. One is valued at $1,000.
"They'll know immediately the value," she said, noting that the cards have a scratch off panel.
According to store manager Steven Durham, Walmart has three separate sales for Black Friday, with two of them kicking off on Thanksgiving Day. Last year, the deals went into effect at 10 p.m.
This year, the first set of holiday deals will kick off at 6 p.m.
"The first sale is our largest sale. It has an assortment of electronics and toys," he said.
The second set of deals starts at 8 p.m. and expands on the first sale.
"Electronics, hardware, a few more toys," Durham said.
At 8 a.m. Friday, the final sale will begin.
"It's going to be some basic merchandise," he said.
"We also have a great deal on tires, great deals on contract phones with rebates," Durham added.
Last year, Walmart offered two or three items at a one-hour in stock guarantee price. The idea was popular among shoppers, so the store expanded the guarantee to about a dozen items this season.
According to Durham, when a customer tries to buy an eligible item within the first hour of the sale, but the item is out of stock, there is a pull tag that the customer can pull and bring to any store register. After paying for the item with the tag, the customer goes online and has the item shipped anywhere.
"It's a guaranteed arrival before Christmas," he said.
Some items with the one-hour in stock guarantee include TVs, a DVD player and tablets.
"Customers will see it in the flyer," Durham said.
Black Friday deals at Belk will entail more than 300 early bird specials. Norwood explained that the early bird specials last until 1 p.m. Friday, at which point a second set of deals will go into effect.
The specials include $10 off the first $50 purchase, including cosmetics and fragrances.
"Almost everything in our store is going to be a special price," she said.
"We sell a lot of luggage, a lot of bedding that day and a ton of shoes," Norwood said, adding that boots will start at $19.99 for Black Friday. "One of our biggest draws is our boot shop."
Kitchen and electric items are also hot sellers.
This year, Belk has a Keurig coffee maker on sale for $99.99, plus a $20 Belk gift card free with purchase, as well as a KitchenAid mixer for $199.99.
"That's normally a $350 mixer," she said.
Belk will also have some great Black Friday deals on jewelry, including $999 for one-carat solitaire studs in 14-karat gold. One of the best buys will be gemstone bangle bracelets starting at $59.99.
"Fine jewelry has some great deals," Norwood said.
For Walmart, electronics are a top seller.
"The big items are, obviously, the TVs. There's great deals on TVs," Durham said.
A surprise item in recent years that the store has doubled up inventory on is bed sheet sets.
"Last year, it was an extremely hot item," he said.
Contract phones and toys in all categories are also big sellers at Walmart.
With the earlier hours, officials are hoping for and expecting an increase in customers.
"We were very successful with it last year, and we're just hoping for the same success this year," Norwood said of Black Friday.
Durham noted that the crowds will be big.
"Traffic will be a lot heavier because of the time change," he said. "Patience will be part of the shopping experience."
Following Black Friday, Small Business Saturday focuses on local businesses. Initiated by American Express in 2010, it encourages the public to shop local to help create jobs and boost the economy.
Battery Giant of SWFL is taking part in Small Business Saturday for the first time this holiday shopping season. Specializing in batteries, the store has been in operation for two years.
"Just because we're a small business," owner Brittany King said of why the family-owned store decided to participate. "A lot of people don't even know about it (Small Business Saturday)."
The store is offering an eight-pack of double AA or triple AAA batteries for $2.99, as well as a free two-pack of AA or AAA batteries for every $25 purchase or a free eight-pack for every $50 purchase.
"We're just having a couple discounts and specials," she said.
She noted that Small Business Saturday helps get the names of participating businesses out there.
"We hope that it'll draw a little bit more attention to the store and get more people in here," King said. "Shopping small business keeps money in our community, and it's good for Cape Coral."
Battery Giant of SWFL carries everything from watch batteries, up to marine and RV batteries.
"We, literally, have every type of battery they you can imagine," she said.
Customer service is important to the company.
"We try to make their shopping experience better," King said, noting that employees will offer suggestions and tips to customers, like how to make a battery last longer.
"We specialize in educating customers a little bit better on products," she said.
John Michael's Diamond & Jewelry Studio will also take part in Small Business Saturday this year.
"We do it every year," owner John Michael Glorioso said.
He noted that small business is a very important part of the local economy.
"Cape Coral is mostly made up of small businesses, so we can ban together on that," Glorioso said.
For Small Business Saturday, the store will offer customers the friends and family discount.
Shoppers will receive an additional 20 percent off of purchases and 20 percent off of any service.
"We're just kind of responding to our local customers," he said.
Customers can add onto a past purchase, such as an engagement ring, or buy something new.
"We have a large selection of silver and color stones and diamond rings," Glorioso said.
Some expected top sellers this year are the usual suspects.
"The hot seller are always diamond stud earrings. It's a great time for engagements, so engagement rings," he said. "And we have a big line of contemporary jewelry - one-of-a-king items."
Services offered at the store range from jewelry repairs, to custom pieces.
"Friday is really a big box store day," Glorioso said. "This is something for the people."
After the holiday weekend wraps up, shopping will continue on Cyber Monday.
Both Belk and Walmart, along with many other stores, will take part in what is becoming a popular after-holiday shopping day. Officials directed consumers to online Web site for ads and specials.
Norwood noted that customers can sign up for text or e-mail alerts on the Monday deals.
Belk is at 2342 Surfside Blvd.
For information, call (239) 282-5692 or visit: www.belk.com/.
Walmart is at 1619 Del Prado Blvd S.
For information, call (239) 772-9220 or visit: www.walmart.com/.
Battery Giant of SWFL is at 2311 Santa Barbara Blvd., Suite 104.
For information, call (239) 673-7474 or visit: www.batterygiantswfl.com/.
John Michael's Diamond & Jewelry Studio is at 1331 Cape Coral Parkway E.
For information, call (239) 549-2099 or visit: johnmichaelsrock.com/.