The lighter side of Black Friday

Last modified: Monday, December 03, 2012
The anticipation — or apprehension, depending on your point of view — about the kickoff to the holiday shopping season known as Black Friday has reached new levels this year, with some of the nation’s largest retailers even opening for business on Thanksgiving evening.

But in the Monadnock region, many merchants are pinning their hopes on brighter colors than black. They’re encouraging their customers to wear plaid on Friday, traditionally the busiest shopping day of the year, and to make many of their purchases locally.

Plaid Friday originated several years ago in Oakland, Calif. The concept has since been adopted by many groups around the country, including Monadnock Buy Local, a loose organization of more than 100 businesses in the region. Several of those businesses, including the Toadstool Bookshops in Peterborough and Keene and MindFull Books & Ephemera in Jaffrey, will be Plaid Friday hubs, with photographers on hand to snap photos of customers and staffers wearing plaid clothing.

“Last year was the first time we really did a big push,” said Toadstool owner Willard Williams on Friday. “We had fun last year, and we’re certainly participating again. The whole point is to get people talking about the idea of shopping locally.”

John Sepe of MindFull Books has been involved with Monadnock Buy Local since its founding about four years ago.

“We’re in tough time,” Sepe said Friday about the outlook for small retailers. “Many of us are closing, going south. Last year, we saw a little growth, but November has been pretty slow so far. [Plaid Friday] is a good awareness program, to inform the public how important it is to support your local stores.

Sepe said having fun is an important aspect of the Plaid Friday concept.

“Enthusiasm — that’s what we need,” he said.

Another merchant who’ll be wearing plaid is Jim Therriault of New England Everyday Goods in Peterborough. He said Plaid Friday offers an alternative that many shoppers are looking for.

“I can’t open at two in the morning to compete with the big guys, “ Therriault said on Monday. “I’d always just left the day after Thanksgiving to them. So last year, I didn’t have any expectations. But it was phenomenal.”

Therriault said his customers include visitors in the region for Thanksgiving who have no desire to sit in traffic or wait in long lines to shop.

“I think there was enough public backlash. A lot of people won’t go near the mall anyway,” he said. “There are still enough people who enjoy a civil, small-town shopping experience who come here.”

Françoise Bourdon, owner of Joseph’s Coat in Peterborough, said she thinks many holiday shoppers are looking to purchase locally.

“It’s a movement that’s building momentum,” she said about Plaid Friday. “I think this year there’s more buzz about it.”

Bourdon, who plans to offer a 10 percent discount to anyone wearing plaid on the day after Thanksgiving, said she optimistic about the potential for a busy holiday season.

“In general, we’ve seen a lot of traffic this year.” Bourdon said on Friday. “People are looking ahead, maybe planning a bit more than usual. People are scouting around. That should be good for the independent merchants. When people shop local, the money stays in the local economy.”

So if you’re heading out on Friday, throw on that lumberjack shirt or bright plaid scarf.

Whatever you do, don’t wear black.