By Tim Krohn
Free Press Staff Writer
MANKATO — Even with this year’s half-day-early start to Black Friday shopping, the official Black Friday was the best on record for many local merchants.
“Traffic numbers were up on Friday compared to last year,” said Paul Wilke, manager of River Hills Mall.
Two mall anchors — Sears and Target — opened Thursday at 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. respectively, following the move by a handful of national chains to shift the shopping kickoff from traditional midnight starts to Thanksgiving Day.
Wilke said he won’t get firm sales numbers from mall stores for a few weeks, but he said retailers were very happy.
“What we’ve heard from retailers is very good. They are meeting or exceeding their goals, and their numbers are higher than last year.”
He said Scheels reported it broke all past Black Friday records.
Wilke said the weekend following Black Friday was likewise strong. “The weather certainly makes a difference. Not having snow certainly helps.”
As for the Thanksgiving Day store openings, Wilke doesn’t expect it to be a trend followed by most retailers. “I don’t see a lot of pressure for other stores to open on Thursday.”
He said the staggered opening of stores seemed to benefit all of them. While some opened Thursday evening, many opened at midnight, and others — including Scheels and JC Penny — opened at 6 a.m.