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Best bargains could come from local businesses

| Thursday, Nov. 25, 2010

Today, on this day of giving thanks, hundreds of families are pouring over the fliers announcing all of the Black Friday deals offered tomorrow by the big chain stores.

But it's the local small businesses who don't get all the advertising hype that just might provide the best deals without all that waiting in line.

Some of the biggest items sold during the holidays are tools, electronics and furniture, and individuals in the Fay-West region can get great deals on all of them without leaving the Connellsville, Scottdale and Mt. Pleasant areas.

Jerry Shenk, owner of Brilhart Hardware in Scottdale, said the store will open at 7 a.m. Friday, one hour earlier than normal, to offer several one-day deals on all kinds of tools, including brand names such as DeWalt, Stanley, Black and Decker and Milwaukee.

"It's normally a good day for us," Shenk said. "The first two or three hours are kind of crazy."

He added that Brilhart's hasn't been affected by the economic slump over the past few years. In fact, business has been good.

"People might put off buying that new shirt or pair of shoes, but they have to fix the sink if it's broken," Shenk said.

And while Brilhart's products are name brand, it's not just those that draw the customers.

"We are able to compete with the big chain stores because we have an excellent and very knowledgaeble staff," Shenk said. "I would put them up against the employees of any big chain store."

Barry Craig, owner of Craig's Appliance and Furniture in Connellsville, said he doesn't really do much advertising for Black Friday, although the business is the craft wrap for today's newspaper.

"We do discount different televisions and Blu-ray players on Friday and Saturday as long as the quantities last," Craig said. "Instead of having just 10 TVs for the blockbuster price of $50, where you have to wait in line all night just for the hope of getting one, we offer competitive prices on our normally stocked items."

Craig said his store is a member in a local buying co-op that buys big quantities at cheaper prices, which small businesses can pass on to their customers.

"My goal is to get those frustrated customers who stood in line all night and never did get what they wanted," he said.

Craig's Appliance and Furniture will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and will offer deals such as a free chair with the purchase of a sofa and multiple rebates through manufacturers on appliances if you buy two or three at once.

"Also, we're running a special right now through the 29th from Electrolux and Frigidaire where you buy two pro appliances and get two for free," he said.

Robert Levin, owner of Levin's Furniture, including the one in Mt. Pleasant, said the holiday season has really become one of the most popular times to sell furniture.

"It really is a very big furniture-buying time, and people are looking for good deals that we have," Levin said. "We actually see Black Friday as one of the biggest furniture selling days of the year now."

He added that it wasn't always like that. Other retailers were offering such amazing deals on other items that everyone's focus was not on furniture. However, furniture manufacturers soon noticed and worked on ways to offer furniture at great prices, he noted.

Some of those great deals that will be offered at Levin's begins 9 a.m. Friday and includes the sale of two Lane recliners for the price of one at $397.

Also, a leather sectional offered in three different colors, which normally sells for $1,299, will be on sale for $597; a Broyhill sofa that sells for $999 will be on sale for $397.

To make it easier on the customers, Levin said they will attach balloons to the doorbusters so when shoppers come in, it will be easier for them to find what they want.

"We hope to be busy, and we're looking forward to it," he said.

Pawan Medhogarhia, assistant professor of finance at Penn State Fayette, the Eberly Campus, said the National Retailers Foundation predicted sales to be up about 2.3 percent this holiday season and that about 138 million people will be shopping on Black Friday weekend, which is up from 134 million last year.

While sales are expected to be up this year, Medhogarhia said retailers still haven't caught up to the drastic fall two years ago.

"In 2008, sales fell by 9 percent," he said. "They went up by 0.4 percent in 2009 and now are predicting a 2.3 increase for this holiday season. We still might not be able to make up for the loss in 2008, but for sure the trends are positive."

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