Thursday November 26th, 2015 7:29AM

Local mall unsure how early openings will impact Black Friday sales

By B.J. Williams News Director
GAINESVILLE - Black Friday really isn't Black Friday any longer, since so many national retailers have decided to open their stores on Thanksgiving night to kick off the holiday shopping season.

How that plays out for malls in smaller cities is an unknown, at this point. Kirsten Boettcher is the marketing manager for Lakeshore Mall in Gainesville, and she said mall owners will be watching closely to see how and when dollars are spent.

"It'll be interesting to see if retailers continue the opening on Thanksgiving or if they decide to go with a more traditional Black Friday," said Boettcher.

As for Lakeshore Mall, shoppers will get a little bit of both. Anchor stores Belk, JC Penney, Sears and Dick's Sporting Goods will open at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving, while the mall itself will wait until midnight to open.

Boettcher said the mall has a promotion in place that she hopes will lure shoppers when the clock strikes midnight on Black Friday.

"I will be at the Information Booth handing out gift cards to the first 150 people in line," said Boettcher. "The gift cards will be valued from $5 to $500, so you could almost take care of your whole shopping if you're the lucky winner of the $500 or one of the higher-value cards."

Of course, Lakeshore Mall has been undergoing a facelift for the last few years, and that didn't change in 2013, as mall owners updated signage and added new stores, too. Boettcher said those improvements should help from an economic standpoint.

"We think that it's going to be a very busy shopping season," she said. "Dick's Sporting Goods is open and they are already pulling a tremendous amount of traffic to the center. We also have a new beauty salon, we have a toy store -ToyZam - for the holiday season, so we're very excited."

Boettcher acknowledged that there is the shopping tradition for many north Georgians of traveling into Atlanta to do Black Friday shopping, but she said she hopes area shoppers will support businesses in their hometowns.

"So that we can keep our business here and grow our own retail presence right here in Hall County."

NOTE: Also in the immediate area, the Mall of Georgia in Buford will open on Thanksgiving night at 8, while a number of stores at North Georgia Premium Outlets in Dawson County also plan Thanksgiving night openings.
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