Marquette Wire

Holidays bring busy stores to retail workers

Photo by Mike Carpenter

Photo by Mike Carpenter

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From small shops in the Third Ward to big malls around the Chicago area, Thanksgiving and Black Friday mark the beginning of frantic Christmas shopping — not just for customers, but retail employees as well.

“Originally, the district was trying to get us to stay open two hours longer, but our manager talked with them and got it down to just one,” Hailey Harwood, an employee at Blick Art Materials in the Third Ward, said.

Harwood worked during Black Friday and said that customers were almost nonstop at the art store that day. She mostly helped shoppers in the aisles because there were plenty of employees to work the register.

On a typical day, visitors slow to a trickle, most of them being students from the art school. During Black Friday, the flow of customers was constant, but not unbearable.

“It was my first year working Thanksgiving too, but we weren’t there so long that I didn’t get to spend time with family,” Harwood said. “When it comes to the holidays, having those days off or shortened is really important.”

Jill Jansen, a Lela Boutique employee, said that Black Friday wasn’t too crazy. Shops in the Third Ward were open, but not all of them had really big sales and traffic was only slightly heavier than normal.

“So many different people come out,” Jansen said about the holiday season. Customer increase comes mostly from people who visit the Third Ward during the holidays that normally don’t shop there during the rest of the year.

Traffic sometimes decreases when there’s snow, but even dangerous road conditions are trumped by the pressing Christmas deadline to get gifts. During the first weekend of December, there was a standard number of people in both Blick and Lela despite touchy weather.

The customer patterns were different for Marquette student Brianna Dolan, a sophomore in the College of Health Sciences. She works at Build-a-Bear Workshop in Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg, Illinois.

“I had a 10-hour shift, but it went by quickly since it was go, go, go the whole time,” Dolan said.

This was Dolan’s first time working during Black Friday.

Macy’s in Eau Claire was also packed on the weekend after Thanksgiving, where Rachel Ciresi, a junior in the College of Health Sciences, works. She said that her department — the Kids’, Misses’ and Women’s clothing section — is typically the busiest part of the store and only gets worse during the holiday rush.

“I was terrified of working Black Friday,” Ciresi said. “There were lots of employees either only working the register or only working recovery, to help the customers find things.”

Though she was lucky to get Thanksgiving off both this year and last year, Ciresi said that it probably wouldn’t have been that bad if she worked part of the day in the past. She thought the customers were generally friendly and understanding. Those that got annoyed brought up issues about coupons and opening credit with the store.

“More people are shopping during the Christmas season than they do during the rest of the year, so they may forget about coupon expirations or limitations over a more regular shopper,” Ciresi said.

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