“The quality of the yarn they sell is very high, and it’s nice to be first so you can pick,” said Lisa Shimberg, who lives nearby in Arlington.
It’s her second year staking out Fibre Space on what has become the holiday shopping season’s busiest day, when many shoppers queue for popular, heavily discounted goods at department and electronics stores. Fibre Space is one of the small businesses in Alexandria’s Old Town Boutique District that’s offering Black Friday specials like big-box retailers do. At most of the Boutique District stores, getting in the door between 6 and 8 a.m. on the day after Thanksgiving gets you 30 percent off, with the discount declining throughout the day. (You can read more about how Fibre Space and the OTBD revamped their Black Friday in Thursday’s story here.)
Back in line, Shimberg said she preferred to shop smaller stores on Black Friday because the atmosphere was fun and friendly — not chaotic and competitive like at stores such as Best Buy.
“It was nice when they came because then I didn’t feel as lonely,” Shimberg said of the couple sitting next to her — Jennifer and Sam Barlev — who got there at about 4:30.
“We really want to see these small businesses succeed,” Jennifer Barlev said. “It’s better than supporting a nameless, faceless corporate entity.”
But it’s not just goodwill that brings them to Fibre Space. A small bunch of good-quality yarn — called a skein — can cost between $12 and $15, said Merrie Morris, another Boutique District shopper. Knitting a sweater can easily run $100. Like Shimberg, the couple said they planned to spend several hundred dollars and go for the luxury yarn first.
Boutiques rarely put their items on sale, so devotee customers jump at the chance to get discounts. At Shoe Hive , an Alexandria shoe store, dozens of women lined up at the cash register while many others rifled determinedly through boxes of designer shoes. Owner Elizabeth Todd estimated she had seen 100 customers in the first hour the store was open.
Todd added that the city of Alexandria helped greatly by opening parking garages early and making parking free for the day.
Other than Fibre Space, most other boutiques in Alexandria had either no line in the early morning or a handful of early risers. At Pacers, a running shoe store, a few people waited for what they said was excellent customer service and hard-to-find shoes.
Chad Kimmell was waiting outside Pacers shortly before 6 a.m. “They pay a lot of attention to detail here,” he said. “I’m really impressed with their service.”
Nationally, small business owners are mainly looking forward to Small Business Saturday, a shopping holiday organized by American Express last year that aims to incentivize buying local.
The National Retail Federation estimates that 52 percent of people shopped at department stores on Black Friday weekend in 2010, compared with 7.2 percent in craft or fabric stores. Those who opt to do their Black Friday shopping at small businesses may worry they’re missing out on the obvious perks of big-box stores: dirt-cheap TVs, tablet computers and other shiny electronics. But luckily, there’s an app for that.
“Coming here gives me the opportunity to get discounts on merchandise that’s not mass-marketed,” said Myra Montrose, who was shopping at the Bloomers lingerie store. “For the big stores, I just shop online.”