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It's here! Black Friday gives you chance to shop 'til you drop

Stoneridge Mall, other retailers open early to get a head start on busy shopping weekend

Today is Black Friday, traditionally one of the biggest shopping days of the year and a day when shoppers look for the best buys during the holidays and when retailers hope to make their most profits of the year, moving their ledger into black after months of red margins in a weak 2015.

During the week, shoppers have been turning out en masse, especially at the big box stores that launched their sales early.

Old Navy kicked off the holiday season with five days of sales early this month along with extended shopping hours. Costco, one of the few stores closed today, Thanksgiving Day, launched its sales last week with major discounts on television sets and computers. The retail chain REI went farther. It held its sales early this week and then decided to stay closed both Thanksgiving Day and on Black Friday to give employees the extra day off as most of corporate America also does.

At least 25 other large retailers joined Costco and REI in staying closed on Thanksgiving Day, a change from in past years. They include Staples, GameStop, T.J. Maxx, Nordstrom, Sam's Club and Home Depot.

But others opened their doors yesterday to get a jump on the competition, including Best Buy, Walmart, stores in the San Francisco Outlets and others.

If sales clerks at Stoneridge Shopping Center seemed a bit tired when today's early bird specials started at 6 a.m., it's because some were at their posts Thanksgiving Day starting at 6 p.m. in shifts that just ended at 1 a.m. this morning. They'll be there again until 10 p.m. tonight and then back from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. again Saturday and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday as all of the mall's 165 stores and restaurants stand ready to help customers celebrate the season.

Downtown Pleasanton is also on board with its version of Black Friday. While merchants offered specials during last Sunday's "Magical Holiday Evening," the big celebration comes tomorrow when Pleasanton celebrates "Small Business Saturday."

The Pleasanton Downtown Association, Visit Tri-Valley, the Pleasanton Chamber of Commerce and Hacienda are working with city officials to encourage the community to shop locally Saturday and, in fact, all during the holiday season and throughout the year.

Numerous organizations have joined the national campaign, founded by American Express in 2010, declaring the Saturday after Thanksgiving every year as Small Business Saturday. It's a day dedicated to supporting the small businesses that create jobs, boost the economy and preserve neighborhoods around the country during one of the busiest shopping times of the year.

In Pleasanton, small businesses having between 1 and 100 employees provide more than 23,000 jobs. According to research by American Express, consumers last year spent an estimated $14.3 billion at independent merchants on Small Business Saturday. Further, a study of independent retailers that included Pleasanton merchants showed that for every $100 spent at an independently owned store, $46 stays in the community.

Shoppers are encouraged to visit www.inPleasanton.com as well as partner organization websites to discover all of Pleasanton's retail shopping locations, and visit www.shopsmall.com to find local merchants that have joined the Small Business Saturday campaign by offering special promotions or discounts.

Black Friday is not new. It started the day after Thanksgiving in the 19th century. Parades held on Thanksgiving concluded with the appearance of Santa Claus to signify that Christmas was coming. Stores would not advertise for Christmas shopping until after the Thanksgiving Day parade appearance of Santa Claus, thus making the Friday after Thanksgiving Day the official start of the holiday shopping season.

In the 1930s, President Franklin Roosevelt changed the official Thanksgiving date from the last Thursday in November to the fourth Thursday. This was to make sure the holiday shopping season would start a week earlier during the years when November had five Thursdays, and stores would not need to break tradition by advertising before Thanksgiving Day. Consequently, this meant that the start of the holiday shopping season would always fall on a Friday in November.

While the day after Thanksgiving Day has been the start of the holiday shopping season for many years, the day was not called "Black Friday" until around 1961 when the term originated in Philadelphia.

There is speculation as to why Black Friday is called Black Friday.

According to www.BlackFriday.fm, an online shopping service, traditionally, putting "Black" before a day of the week describes that day as an unforgettable and chaotic event. "Black Friday" creates this imagery reflected by the vast amount of shoppers and traffic, which were the conditions in Philadelphia where the term originated.

Black Friday could also be named as such because the retail industry operates "in the red" (at a loss) throughout the year, but then operates "in the black" (at a profit) starting on Black Friday.

Not long ago, shoppers would have to cue up at retail stores before daybreak on Black Friday to shop first because of limited-time, door-buster deals that would last for as little as one hour, with stock often limited. This year, with many stores advertising "pre-Black Friday" specials and most stocking their shelves to provide adequate inventory at least through the three-day weekend, the long lines at daybreak have largely disappeared.

Then, of course, there's more to Black Friday than "black" or "Friday." Cyber Monday has become just as popular for those who increasingly shop online. Mondays after Black Fridays have become the day to log in to favorite stores and shop away on a keyboard, keeping the numbers and expiration dates of credit cards handy as well.

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