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Nov 23, 2011 9:58 PM by Ariel Wesler

Holiday Shopping: Big Box Stores vs. Small Retailers

Once the Thanksgiving feast is put away and the dishes are washed, some folks are heading out the door to shop. This year, some of the chain stores are opening as early as 9 p.m. tomorrow night to a get a jump start on the Black Friday rush.

Smaller stores say they offer more specialized products and better customer service than some of the big box stores. Still, each year the competition is fierce for the biggest shopping day of the year.

It seems the signs are everywhere. Black Friday is around the corner. James Gregory was at Tom's Toys making out his wish list with his sister.

"I'm still willing to pay a little more to go to a smaller specialty shop. Usually you get a much better customer service experience," said Amber Sandborn, who was shopping.

But as chain stores prepare to open earlier, smaller retailers have to stay competitive. Carr's boots in Santa maria will open at 5 a.m.

"We have to get here at 4. We get out of bed at 3. Employees have to be in bed by 7, so we're infringing enough without doing it at midnight. That's crazy!" said Owner John Carr.

This is Target's first holiday season in San Luis Obispo and it's another big-box store on the outskirts of town that could keep holiday shoppers from smaller downtown businesses.

I like going to target and I like going to Walmart as well because they have a wide selection and it's easy to shop in," said Jennifer Smith of Cambria.

Larger shopping centers offer tons of free parking. Downtown, it's a different story and time really is money.

"If you're going to be in retail, you have to be optimistic," said Kannyn January, who owns the clothing store Ambiance in San Luis Obispo.

She reminds shoppers regardless of the deals, ultimately, you get what you pay for.

"Look for the value in the product and look to see where it's made, and look at the company to see how long they're going to stand behind what they're buying," January said.

Meanwhile, Tom's Toys isn't too worried about the new kid on the block. They've been through this before.

"I remember when Mervyn's and Gottschalks and all those other stores had toy departments and Tom's Toys did well then too," said Tom's Toys Asst. Manager Jack Mckeen.

And as for James Gregory, he doesn't care where you buy his presents.

If you're like me, you've been getting Black Friday emails on your phone every day this week as retailers ramp up their email and social media campaigns to get you into their stores.

According to the National Retail Federation, up 152 million shoppers are expected to hit stores nationwide for the Black Friday weekend. That's up from 138 million last year.

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