The name “Black Friday” for the crazed shopping scene on the day after Thanksgiving originated in Philadelphia – or at least Wikipedia says it did.
So perhaps it makes sense that some neighborhood shopping districts in Philadelphia are trying to rename the day.
“We’re calling it ‘White Friday’ here in Manayunk instead of Black Friday,” said Jane Lipton, executive director of the Manayunk Development Corporation. “We’re trying to position ourselves a little differently… our tag line this year is ‘Buy something special from someplace special.’”
The idea is that, instead of standing in a crazy line at crazy early-morning time so that crazed people can claw past you to get their paws on the latest hyped toy or electronic gadget, you can shop at a pleasant pace in a pleasant place, with some personal attention from people who still deserve the title of “shopkeeper.”
Dreaming of a ‘White Friday’
The “White Friday” moniker was particularly appropriate in Manayunk, since the big attraction along the Main Street shopping district was a pull-out-all-the-stops bridal sale at Nicole Miller.
This designer gown sale can knock a $2,300 dress down to a few hundred bucks. You could even find one, like the sleek ivory bow neck job that owner Mary Dougherty showed off Friday morning, living on the $100 rack.
It wasn’t like the predawn scrum at a suburban Best Buy, but a short line of brides-to-be were waiting at 8 a.m. when Nicole Miller opened its doors. By 9:30 a.m., eight dresses had been sold.
Store manager Samantha Sciolla said the key is letting the customer take her time.
“You never tell them it’s their dress,” she said. “It has to be up to them.”
Of course, free “white” ice cream, a DJ for the afternoon, and the evening’s white Christmas tree lighting in Canal View Park featuring Nicole Miller models in those very gowns all help.
And so does the fact that not even a recession can upset certain priorities.
“No mater what’s going on with the world brides still think the dress matters,” Dougherty said.
“White Friday” lured Darlene Voorhees all the way from Cinnaminson, N.J..
“I wasn’t planning on getting the dress until after the New Year, and then when my friend told me about the sale on Wednesday, I said I can’t pass it up,” Voorhees said.
For Lipton and the rest of the Manayunk shopping district, White Friday’s apparent success was encouraging evidence that a focus on customer service and quality products will work even in tight times
“What we offer is charm, a unique destination, personalized service,” Lipton said. “When you go to a jeweler in our district, and we have four, you’re going to get serviced by the owner of the store.”
No Manayunk merchant expects suburban mall crowds. But Lipton thinks the lively scene at Nicole Miller Friday suggests the boutique pitch can get some traction if applied to all of Main Street.
In a way, the shoppers who did frequent commercial strips in Northwest Phildelphia seemed to agree that the notion of unhurried shopping has some appeal. Shoppers interviewed in the shopping districts of Chestnut Hill, Mount. Airy and Germantown said they’d come to them precisely because they were less hectic, or because they sought something special from a small business they wanted to support.
More bustle in Andorra
One exceptionn to that rule was the Andorra Shopping Plaza in Roxborough, where more than a hundred people stood outside the doors when Kohl’s’ Department Store opened at 3:00 a.m.
“Because underwear is on sale, Santa always brings socks and underwear,” said Tish Gambala of East Falls. “And frankly it isn’t a mall.”