Cindy Chew/2005 S.F. Examiner file photoSan Francisco bargain hunters will soon be treading in the steps of previous Black Friday shoppers.

SF retailers hoping for crowds as Black Friday kicks off holiday shopping

While the origins of Black Friday are murky, the day’s crowds and mayhem are all too obvious. From crazed shoppers stampeding clerks to lines of early-morning bargain buyers, Black Friday has earned its malevolent name.

In San Francisco, local retailers are hoping for the crowds, but not the mayhem.

And if puppy dogs and cats perched in store windows, Christmas tree lighting and ice skating rinks have their usual calming effects, that should happen.

“It gets pretty crazy,” said Monika McMillen, manager of clothing store James Perse. While she expects a lot of foot traffic like last year, the Maiden Lane store, which is one of 30 nationwide, isn’t doing much special for the beginning of the holiday shopping season.

Like most retail stores, the shopping season, starting the day after Thanksgiving, is the busiest time of year at James Perse. But for downtown retailers as well as many across The City, this year’s frenzied shopping season is shorter, said Chamber of Commerce spokeswoman Kate McNally.

“This year is a compressed shopping season because of the dates Thanksgiving falls on,” McNally said.

The National Retail Federation, she noted, expects a national decrease in the number of shoppers over the holiday weekend from 147 million last year to 140 million this year.

Still, for Janet Lees, senior director of SFMade, a roughly 500-member organization of San Francisco manufacturing companies, Black Friday is a big deal to the organization since 95 percent of members make consumer products.

While the shopping that begins Friday is essential to companies’ bottom lines, SFMade also hopes to grab shoppers at its annual Fort Mason event Dec. 6-7, which showcases 100 SFMade members and the things they manufacture in The City.

The truncated shopping season has shops downtown gearing up to nab as many consumers as they can, even if that means opening their doors before Black Friday even begins.

At The City’s retail center, Union Square, some stores will open Thanksgiving night, said Karin Flood, executive director of the Union Square Business Improvement District.

While opening stores on Thanksgiving night has not always been a regular practice, Flood said, it is an option retailers are giving people now.

“People certainly have the option if they want to stay with their families for Thanksgiving dinner,” she said.

Nationwide, an estimated 33 million shoppers are expected to head out to stores on Thanksgiving night, according to the National Retail Federation.

In Flood’s case, she’ll be opting for the family dinner instead of the department store.

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