November 30, 2009
All Night in a Kite Store

I think Susan and I own the only kite store in the country open at 3 a.m. Friday morning. As a matter of fact, we were open all night long!

The management of the Outlet Mall where we are located in Lincoln City decided it would be fun to take "Black Friday" head on. So we learned a week before Thanksgiving that the store was required to open at midnight and stay open until 8 p.m. the following night. As you may know, Northwest Winds is managed and staffed by Susie's brother, sister-in-law, and niece. And there was no way we were going to make them run a 20 hour shift alone. So after Thanksgiving Dinner with the family, I grabbed three hours sleep, and then trotted on down to the Mall.

They don't call it "midnight madness" for nothing. But it is the shoppers and not the shopping that is crazy.

When I arrived just after 11, customers were already lined up in front of major clothing stores like Columbia, Haynes, and the Gap. Several retailers opened early to get a jump on the competition. But in spite of the crowds and sleep-deprived excitement, business was not brisk at our place. These folks were not looking for kites....

Now, lest you think you missed something, I'll tell you now that we did indeed have some serious discounts. NWW offered 50% off on some plush toys, 40% on select mobiles and wind decor, and 30% off a special purchase of Go Fly close-outs that we picked up from AKA. But we didn't mark down the mainstream GKPI and G-Kite products.

NW Winds Crew

One determined shopper demanded to know why.

"We don't stock seconds or over-runs" I explained. "We aren't a huge corporation like NIKE. And besides, if those guys are dropping prices 70%, you think they are losing money?? Imagine what their mark-up must have been to start with!"

A protester showed up with signs to condemn corporate greed and the corruption of holidays into merchandising events. I suggested our own sign -- "Keep the 'thanks' in Thanksgiving..." Those are the kinds of things you think about late at night in a retail store.

After about an hour of watching crowds walk past our windows, things began to slow down. Two a.m., four a.m., six a.m. came slowly. At about five, Susie and I toured the quiet mall looking for our own bargains.

Kite Store Kite Store Kite Store

Midnight shoppers had looked young. Most appeared between 18 and 25. And it startled me to see families with small children walking by at two in the morning. But by breakfast, a different, slightly older crowd began to arrive and business picked up. Our sales between 8 and 10 were stronger than between midnight and 8.

Periodically through the night and morning, I sent staff home for a few hours sleep. And I myself laid down on a kite bag for two 20 minute naps. But after about 17 hours in the shop, I started to slur my words. I went home while the primary staff wrapped up the day. Good job guys!!

Northwest Winds, I'm proud to say, is still one of the largest kite stores in the country. We have almost 3000 square feet. And since we are in a town that promotes kite flying, where the main retail business is in a factory outlet mall, and since we have a kite factory, it made sense to open there. Business on "Black Friday" was pretty good. It would have been just as good if we'd skipped the all-nighter and opened at eight....

Susie and I are off early Tuesday for her annual Birthday Trip. I'll have photos and more news next week. We'll be back on the 7th.

Meanwhile, since most of you missed the "Doorbuster Sale", we'll offer you an alternative. Order anything from our GKites.com site between now and when we get back home, write "Birthday Madness" in the comments section at checkout, and we'll discount the entire order 20%.

And like I said before -- remember to keep the "thanks" in Thanksgiving. We're very grateful to all of you!

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