November 28, 2013 12:26:26 AM
Almost 44 stores will participate in the Greater Starkville Development Partnership's inaugural Black Friday Bonanza, an event, CEO Jennifer Gregory said, that could provide a substantial boost in sales for local retailers.
Every other year, Starkville's population swells as college football fans from across the state come to Oktibbeha County for the Egg Bowl. When the game falls on Thanksgiving Day, the GSDP works with local businesses to entice visitors into an extended stay, thereby helping boost sales and 2 percent food and beverage tax returns.
Starkville's Black Friday sales will feature numerous businesses across, from traditional downtown clothing boutiques to hardware stores and restaurants. By providing a collaborative business atmosphere, Gregory said store owners are working together to keep shoppers in town instead of competing against each other for potential dollars.
"For us to have a product to market, we knew there needed to be stores that literally offer anything you might have on your Christmas list. Our participants have exceeded our hopes," she said. "We've seen a lot of traffic on our website already about Black Friday. It seems people are taking that information and planning their day out accordingly. We really hope people will make those plans. There are no surprises, no gimmicks - it's just a way for us to promote shopping local and provide a fun opportunity to those that live in Starkville or who are here this weekend visiting family or coming to the Egg Bowl."
Sales will begin Friday at 7 a.m., but many specials are staggered throughout the day. Gregory said this was planned so visitors do not feel rushed or pressured after a night of football. The Partnership will facilitate text message announcements of flash sales during the day. Subscribers can join the message list by texting "Starkville" to 57711. A full list of Black Friday Bonanza participants can be found at visit.starkville.org/bonanza.
"There are some stores offering half off everything during a few morning hours, but none of the sales start before 7 a.m.," she said. "We want people to enjoy the football game, celebrate a win, spend time with their families and then come visit our community's stores."
Post-game visitors will find limited openings
Many Starkville restaurants and bar owners face a hard decision on Thanksgiving. Although the Egg Bowl provides one of the most profitable days for those businesses, many owners close their businesses, ensuring employees are able to spend the holiday with friends and family.
"It's a great opportunity for thousands and thousands of fans to descend into your restaurant or store while they're here since, for a lot of fans, this is the biggest game of the year," Gregory said. "At the same time, we absolutely understand those owners who want to be with their family on a very special day.
"We're really pleased that several restaurants have chosen to remain open, and they'll use creativity to tailor their menus toward the holidays with Thanksgiving-themed items," she added. "Home Egg Bowls are typically one of the biggest football games in terms of revenue for the city. There's a lot of excitement that the game is back on Thanksgiving, and last week's win at Arkansas has put MSU in a position where we can achieve a record of four consecutive bowl games. I think we'll see strong sales numbers come from Thanksgiving and Black Friday."
A GSDP-compiled list of local restaurants that will open their doors on Thanksgiving can be found at visit.starkville.org/archives/3044.
Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch
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