As Black Friday deals continue, the shopping experience is moving into Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday.

But, as we can say with nearly every experience since March, this holiday season will be different. Most stores were closed this Thanksgiving, in a reversal of recent years where the trend pushed the opening hour into the morning of Thanksgiving or into the noon lunch hour. This year was a retro experience with stores opening early Friday morning for a traditional Black Friday experience. All the while, Black Friday deals already started in stores and online this year as retailers also worked to make shopping easier and to curtail large crowds all at once.

In Target in Baxter where a typical Black Friday can have shoppers in mass numbers near each other, this year blocked aisles by the main walkway leading to the checkout counters directed newly arriving shoppers away from those already standing in line with their purchases. Target also expanded its shopping spaces for those ordering online and picking up at the store.

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By 9 a.m. Friday, parking lots at Target, Kohl’s, Fleet Farm, Best Buy, Walmart, Costco, Menards, Home Depot, the shopping strip with Ulta Beauty, T.J. Maxx, PetSmart and Dick’s Sporting Goods and the Westgate Mall, all had substantial numbers of vehicles.

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People were arriving and leaving as singles, couples and with groups of four or five shoppers who were chatting and shopping together.

On a sunny, mild Black Friday, vehicles were in abundance in parking lots throughout the lakes area in the morning for the kickoff of the holiday shopping season. Renee Richardson / Brainerd Dispatch
On a sunny, mild Black Friday, vehicles were in abundance in parking lots throughout the lakes area in the morning for the kickoff of the holiday shopping season. Renee Richardson / Brainerd Dispatch

On a normal year, the mild temperatures, sunny morning and clear driving would have made for a robust Black Friday with people packed into long lines. The staggering of deals, early and extended Black Friday sales and lots of options to purchase online and pick up at local stores or have items delivered to the home via local stores is giving shoppers many more options this season. It will be interesting to see if these changes to Black Friday last.

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With Small Business Saturday, main street shops and independent businesses are spotlighted along with an informational campaign designed to get shoppers to note how important their dollars are for local businesses and jobs. While convenience for online shopping and this misplaced idea of parking ease moved some shoppers either away from brick and mortar stores completely or to big box stores or Amazon and other large online retailers, small businesses are now competing with online shopping and curbside service — and to be frank the parking idea mainly exists in people’s minds as they are willing to walk much farther on their way to a big box store just because they can park in front of it — even if the spot is a football field away from the front door.

Shoppers return with to their vehicles with their purchases Friday morning at Menards in Baxter. Renee Richardson / Brainerd Dispatch
Shoppers return with to their vehicles with their purchases Friday morning at Menards in Baxter. Renee Richardson / Brainerd Dispatch

“This holiday season it’s especially important to shop local when you can as many small businesses are struggling,” the Brainerd Lakes Chamber reported. “If all of us changed just one $50 purchase to support a local business, $42 million* would stay in our local economy every year. One purchase can make a difference.”

5 Reasons to Keep it Local from the chamber

  1. Keep Money Local: Your money spent here, stays here.

  2. Personal Service: You’ll find one-of-a-kind items and knowledgeable service.

  3. Good for the Environment: Cut down on shipping and transportation costs with locally made and sustainable products.

  4. Spread the love: You’re supporting someone who dreamed of opening a small business, and in turn, small businesses support schools, local charities, and local sports.

  5. Creates diversity: You’ll find character and charm in cities and downtowns with vibrant local businesses.

A Hometown Holidays Downtown Brainerd Window Walk is planned from 5-7 p.m. Dec. 4 with stores open late, specials planned and outdoor holiday music.

Last week, we noted businesses that are being creative during this challenging time and providing a way to give a gift this season that helps in more ways than one by supporting local businesses and providing a craft or activity or experience for the gift.

The Crossing Arts Alliance continues to offer Creativity Kits free to the public monthly.

“So far we've provided almost 3000 kits for free, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future,” Lisa Jordan, executive/artistic director at The Crossing Arts Alliance. “We're also offering to-go art kits for sale in our shop.”

A man who promoted the Staples-Motley area and was a believer in the power of local economies died from complications of COVID-19. Mel Nefstead was 82 and a current resident of Baxter. He was very involved in the community from faith-based efforts to teaching and mentoring, volunteering and, for a time, as executive director of the Staples/Motley Chamber of Commerce. The list of his activities and ways he worked within the community is incredibly extensive. In his obituary, family noted he even biked 75 miles on his 75th birthday to celebrate. Nefstead died Nov. 18. A celebration of life ceremony is planned for the spring/summer of 2021 with the anticipation of coronavirus pandemic restrictions lifting.

Renee Richardson, managing editor, may be reached at 218-855-5852 or renee.richardson@brainerddispatch.com. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchBizBuzz.