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Stores, mall, cops and shoppers ramp up for start of key holiday shopping season

JCPenney is one of the stores in Willmar’s Kandi Mall that plans to open its doors Thursday evening to get the sales started early. Kayla Unke, an employee at the store, was busy Tuesday arranging a clothing display. The Black Friday sales at her store will begin at 8 p.m. Thursday, and the store will stay open for 25 hours straight. Tribune photo by Gary Miller

WILLMAR — Consumers are expected to spend 11 percent more this holiday season, which officially kicks off Thursday, and they are likely to go shopping just as soon as the turkey dinner is finished and maybe even before the pumpkin pie is served.

Bargain hunting is the name of the game, but 62 percent of those polled in Accenture’s annual holiday shopping survey said it would take a discount of 30 percent or more discount to persuade them to make a purchase. And, 39 percent said they would return a gift and rebuy it if they found a lower price on an item already purchased.

A spokesperson for the Kandi Mall in Willmar said doors will open at 6 a.m. Friday. Individual store hours may vary.

At Paffrath & Son Jewelers at the mall, owner Todd Paffrath said the store, in business for 87 years, will have a sterling silver heart-shaped pendant for the first 50 customers as a door buster promotion.

He said the store will open at 6 a.m. Friday as the store has always done and not earlier because Thanksgiving is a day with family.

He said December is the biggest month of the year nationwide for the jewelry business in general.

Paffrath’s will have discounts throughout the store. The store has a large selection of diamonds on hand because he said Christmas is a big time of year for engagement rings when a majority of engagement rings are sold.

Paffrath said Kandi Mall is a very viable entity and is a main shopping destination, and the store sees a lot of traffic on Friday and throughout Saturday too, and even Sundays have become busier.

He said the store this year is offering an extra 5 percent discount if customers bring a nonperishable food item for the Willmar Area Food Shelf. The food shelf has listed its food needs on its website.

“It’s kind of the Christmas spirit that way,’’ said Paffrath.

At Coat & Tie, co-owner Dwaine Walthers said the store, specializing in men’s and women’s leathers and men’s clothing and formal wear, said the store will be open at 6 a.m.

“It’s a matter of getting up early, but I feel fortunate I don’t have to start the night before,’’ said Walthers, who had just finished hanging up his Christmas decorations.

Walthers has been in the retail business for more than 50 years and has owned and operated Coat & Tie, formerly St. Paul Clothiers, since 1995. He said Black Friday creates a lot of traffic and the mall is very, very busy.

For Walthers personally, he said the store will sell some leather coats and some suits that day.

“They do give suits for Christmas a little bit, not as much as other things,’’ he said. “But we give them the suit, wrap it up and if they decide they want to keep it, then we put the hem in it for them. If it doesn’t fit, they come back and we give them another size or we give them their money back.’’

Walthers said the store does well this time of year, maybe a little greater than the rest of the year. But he said a major part of his business is renting formal wear.

JCPenney is one of the mall stores opening Thursday evening to get the sales started early.

“This year we’re pulling out all the stops,” said Cheryl Randleman, JCPenney store leader in Willmar.

The Black Friday sales at her store will begin at 8 p.m. Thursday, and the store will stay open for 25 hours straight.

“This is the biggest day of the year by a great margin,” she added.

Store team members were given the opportunity to volunteer for the Thursday night shifts and those hours were the most popular. “It’s so invigorating and so exciting,” Randleman said of the sale.

Small electric appliances are stacked at the store’s mall entrance. “They were really hit items,” Randleman said. “They sold out last year.”

This year that category is well-stocked at a great price, she added.

The shoppers, malls and stores aren’t the only ones ramping up for the holiday and weekend of shopping.

The Willmar Police Department will have eight officers working overtime shifts, paid for by the stores, at several larger retail stores on Thanksgiving Day, according to Police Chief David Wyffels.

Where the fully uniformed officers will conduct their patrols depends on the store’s request, Wyffels said. For example, some stores ask for officers to be present in the stores while shoppers are scrambling for deals while others want law officers present in their parking lot to keep the peace as shoppers wait for the opportunity to run inside for savings.

The additional officers are above and beyond the department’s shift of officers working their regular 12-hour patrol shifts, Wyffels said. Heavy traffic along First Street and other main roads or crowd control would be examples of when the regular officers are called to action, he added.

Gary Miller contributed to this report.