By Michael Balderston
Thanksgiving is full of traditions – the turkey, the parade, football – but almost as popular as the holiday itself is what happens the next day, or as it has been in recent years, later that evening.
Black Friday is a national sensation where waves of people descend upon their local retail stores and malls for discounted items to kick-off the holiday season. Every year there are videos of amped up customers rushing through the front doors to try and be the first to get their hands on the holiday’s hot item; but what is it like for those working Black Friday?
Robbie Stark, General Manager of Fair Oaks Mall in Fairfax, shared how he prepares for the busiest shopping day of the year and what it’s like to stare down a wall of eager shoppers. This is an edited version of our conversation.
Why does Black Friday keep starting earlier?
The big driver is customers. For retailers it’s all about being open so your customers can get in. You can’t ring up any sales unless the doors are open and if the customers don’t show up then you start thinking, ‘Well, I’m spending money and I’m not making any money.’ Last year we opened at 8 p.m. and the mall was packed. The mall was jammed packed with people and in fact, kind of interestingly, packed full of families. Either they had been together all day and needed to get out of the house or it was ‘Are we going to go do something tonight?’
Are there any special preparations for Black Friday?
Black Friday is not the biggest sales generation day of the year, usually that happens the Saturday before Christmas… but it is one of the highest traffic days. Nobody’s at work and everybody wants to go off and do stuff and it kicks off the season, it’s tradition for a lot of people. So for us, we do a lot of things to get prepared. We install different traffic barricades so that we make sure we control the traffic flow. We bring in a lot of extra security. We manually control our traffic signal. We hire off-duty police officers to help us control the traffic signals just outside the property so that we keep traffic flowing really well… it can get backed up and become a real challenge and that could ruin somebody’s shopping experience before they even get on the property… And then inside the mall there’s a lot of preparation. We’ve got to adjust all of our schedules, so we’ve got to adjust air conditioning to the lights being on everywhere to staffing level, we have to address all of those so we are ready for all those masses of people.
Have you ever experienced the classic Black Friday situation of a mass of people waiting outside the doors eager to get in?
I have experienced it at other retail settings, but not in the shopping mall setting. Here at Fair Oaks we get a lot of people that come and there are specific stores they are interested in. We do a lot of work to make sure we don’t let the crowds gather in a way that would cause those kinds of problems, we learned from the past.
What is it like standing on the other side of that glass?
It is exhilarating and it’s a little scary. At one point in my career I ran a big box store and even though we lined them up and we had our teaser type deals, which were limited…, they still get so excited to get in there and get the things. It can be a little overwhelming but at the same time it’s exhilarating. It’s a lot of fun, people are super excited.
Did you ever do Black Friday shopping?
Last year, I was here before we opened on Thanksgiving and worked late into the night and then actually drove from here at the mall to another store that was opening really early in the morning for a deal that I saw. I hadn’t been to bed yet, they opened at 5 or 6 in the morning, I went straight there, hopped in line and got the things I was looking for then headed home and got a nap. I’m guilty, you see a great deal it’s hard to pass up.
Posted by Editorial / Saturday, February 1st, 2014
By Katie Bowles
Spotlight on Fairfax’s Chocolate Lovers Festival 2014
Do your kids have a sweet tooth? Bring them out to one of the child-friendly activities at Fairfax’s Chocolate Lovers Festival, which began yesterday and runs through tomorrow.
Today, kids and parents alike can take part in the Chocolate Lovers Pancake Breakfast at Fire Station 3, running from 8 a.m. till 1 p.m. Children 3 and younger eat for free; cost is $4 for children ages 4-10 and $6 for adults.
Also at Fire Station 3 will be Face Painting, running concurrently with the Pancake Breakfast (9 a.m. till 1 p.m.). Kids can have their faces painted for $2.
At the Fairfax Court House, kids have the opportunity to be fingerprinted for free from 10 a.m. till 3 p.m., and beginning at 10:15, they can watch a fairy tale-based mock trial and learn about the justice system.
If you’re looking to get out of the house with your little one, story times offer a great social scene for tots and parents alike. Here are our favorite local places to listen to a free tale:
Barnes and Noble
Locations throughout Northern Virginia/DC Metro
This big chain of bookstores host story times and performances throughout the week. Each store is unique, but story times frequently include a craft or activity, costumed character, and sometimes even some coffee samples and treats. Here’s a link to the events calendar of the 21 different metro Barnes & Noble locations in and around Northern Virginia.
The Mosaic District hosts a weekly story time on Tuesday mornings called “Stories from Strawberry Park.” During the winter season, the story time is moved into the swank Angelika Film Center. Attendees can enjoy a unique, interactive performance told by professional storytellers. Stay afterwards to visit the fun shops and restaurants the Mosaic District has to offer.
Barston’s Child Play
4510 Lee Highway, Arlington, 22207
This award-winning, family-owned toy store has been in business for over 27 years, and the free Friday morning story times have become a staple in the community. Story times are also held on Saturday mornings at their Rockville, Md. location.
1220 N. Fillmore , Arlington, 22201
Join the fun with Ms. Laura on Monday and Friday mornings at 10:30 AM for a wonderful story time filled with fun and laughter. This giant toy store is filled with unique toys and gifts and is located in the metro-accessible and vibrant Clarendon neighborhood.
Pottery Barn Kids
Locations in Tysons Corner Mall and Fair Oaks Mall
Every Tuesday at 11 a.m., the staff at Pottery Barn Kids gathers a crowd for an exciting read aloud. Children who attend receive a special book club passport and after attending five story times, they get a special gift. Weekly book selections can be viewed on the store events page.
Udvar-Hazy Center Smithsonian Air and Space Museum
On many mornings, museum staff will read stories for children about famous aviators, hot-air balloon flights, trips to Mars, the night sky, and winged creatures that soar through the skies. Following the story time, children are encouraged to take part in a hands-on art activity. Visit the calendar of events to find out details about upcoming story times.
We must pay homage to the robust selection of children’s events at our local public libraries. All Northern Virginia public library systems have an online calendar that allows users to search by event type and location. Although free, some story times require pre-registration. Head over to your area’s library website and find fun children’s events near you.
Micaela Williamson is a co-author of local travel guide, Kid Trips Northern Virginia, an extraordinary resource that provides descriptions, useful information and insider tips for hundreds of local destinations. Micaela is also an award winning blogger who enjoys supporting area businesses and scouting out family-friendly venues with her two young sons.
Posted by Editorial / Friday, November 15th, 2013
One of the most tangibly magical experiences we have as children is visiting the North Pole at the local mall. It helps that we are easily impressed as youngsters, ready and eager to presume the irritated teenagers ushering us around are elves or that walking on red carpet is an accurate depiction of Santa’s workshop. The modest production values were not a huge hindrance; our imaginations as youngsters filled in all the gaps. However, while a little goes a long way, an authentically marvelous experience will leave an impression on a child forever. Santa’s Ice Palace in Fair Oaks Mall goes above and beyond in delivering a miraculously real encounter with St. Nick.
“Our goal was to create an exciting holiday experience that would become an annual family tradition,” says Ed Cassidy, Marketing and Sponsorship Director of Fair Oaks Mall. A lofty goal like that calls for ambitious designs, and The Ice Palace features a wonder-inducing assortment of features. Families will enter a 30-foot dome of ice replete with falling snow and a 360-degree screen playing BBC Earth’s “Frozen Planet.”There are even polar bear paws imprinted onto ice for children to compare with their own hand prints.
Cassidy explains that the goal was to create a special experience for youngsters. “Light shows, showcases of arctic wildlife, sitting with the Ice Princess atop her Ice Throne, and interactive features all add to the excitement of finally turning the corner and seeing Santa,” he said.
The Ice Palace is built in a short four days. Cassidy said that “Since it is such a complex, interactive design … there are numerous technical issues to implement and test during the four days required to build the palace.”
The work has paid off for Fair Oaks Mall, which enjoyed over 150,000 visitors to the attraction last year. Entering its third year, The Ice Palace is expected to draw even larger numbers. It is a North Pole where kids don’t need their imaginations to do all the work. Well-utilized resources and craftsmanship have been combined to create a wonderful holiday experience for the family. Give your kids an early gift this year.
Nov. 7- Dec. 24
11750 Fair Oaks Mall, Fairfax
Posted by Carten Cordell / Wednesday, March 27th, 2013
This is the last weekend that the Easter Bunny will be available for photo ops at area malls, so be sure to suit up your little ones in their pastel and gingham glory. Need ideas? Look no further than our Easter Guide!
To keep a little extra cash in your basket, head to The Children’s Place at Fair Oaks Mall, where for every $40 you spend through this Sunday, you’ll receive $20 PLACE Cash to use on your next purchase of $40 or more from April 1-15, 2013.
Posted by Carten Cordell / Thursday, March 21st, 2013
No bunny wants to be stuck in the house with nothing to do for the Easter holiday; luckily, you won’t have to with these fun events we’ve got marked down on our always-full calendar. Head out with the whole family and see what great activities NoVA has to offer. With festivities this exciting, everyone will want to join in, and be less bitter about not winning tickets to the White House!
Posted by Carten Cordell / Wednesday, November 21st, 2012
Ready to camp out in front of your favorite stores? Gear up, because this Black Friday will be even better than the last one. In case you haven’t decided on your exact plan of attack, we have compiled some information for you about area malls and shops.
From Nov. 22-23, local favorite nail polish shop Coco Rae will be selling its digit delights at fabulous discounts. Individual polishes will be $6, three-piece sets will be $17.50 and the fall five-piece set will be only $37.
Crystal City’s Gossip on 23rd is offering 25 percent off everything on Black Friday and Small Business Saturday from 11 a.m. – 7 p.m. Additionally, anyone who spends more than $100 will receive a free surprise gift bag!
The Mosaic District in Merrifield is hosting tons of great sales! Receive 20 percent off anything at South Moon Under, as well as 25 percent off sale items on Black Friday. Langford Market is offering $200 worth of stuff for only $100. Also, Anthropologie is having their grand opening that day. Go here to see an extended list of stores and sales.
In the biggest sale of the year in Alexandria, especially the Old Town Boutique District, many stores will have everything 30 percent off from 6-8 a.m., savings of 20 percent from 8-10 a.m., and after 10 a.m., everything will be discounted 10 percent. Alexandria City garages and parking meter fees are waived for the day, so no need to fret about circling for a parking spot.
The following garages and lots are opening at 6 a.m., with free parking all day:
Market Square Garage, 108 N. Fairfax St.
Courthouse Square Garage, 111 S. Pitt St.
Thompson’s Alley Garage, 10 Thompson’s Alley
North Union Street Garage, 220 N. Union St.
South Henry Street Lot, 112 S. Henry St.
Cameron/St. Asaph Street Lot, 210 N. St. Asaph St.
For yet another non-mall experience, bring the kids for cider, cookies and an unforgettable art experience at The Workhouse Arts Center in Lorton. Their Escape to Black Friday event will feature artists and exhibitions to see, as well as the chance to learn more about the art processes themselves. Enjoy food from the Workhouse Farmers Market from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. or at the Workhouse Cafe.
As for the malls …
The Fashion Centre at Pentagon City (1100 S Hayes St.; 703-415-2401)
Thanksgiving Day: Mall Closed
Friday, Nov. 23: 5 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Saturday, Nov. 24: 8 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Sunday, Nov. 25: 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.
The first 100 shoppers to register their email address with Guest Services Pentagon City between the hours of 5-7 a.m. will receive a Black Friday survival kit, including small gifts, samples, coupons and the Retailer Showcase with all of The Fashion Centre at Pentagon City’s Black Friday retailer specials.
Some of the shops at Tysons Corner Center will open at midnight; click here to find out more. Their great steals include Lucky Brand Jeans, offering $25 off jeans; Banana Republic, who is giving 40 percent off your purchase; and Godiva, where you can get a $10 gift card for spending $50.
The Fair Oaks Mall will open at midnight on Black Friday with its slew of stellar sales.
Dulles Town Center is opening a few doors at midnight as well, but not all stores will be opening that early. Check out their website for more detailed information, and preview their holiday steals here!
And let’s not forget about midnight outlet mall madness at Leesburg Corner Premium Outlets!
What’s more, don’t finish all of that shopping on Friday–The Village at Shirlington, along with many other local retailers, are participating in Small Business Saturday as well as Cyber Monday with even more discounts!
Happiest of shopping!
Posted by Angela Bobo / Tuesday, November 13th, 2012
Looking for a one-of-a-kind piece of jewelry for the girl that has everything? Head over to the Four Seasons Hotel in Georgetown this Thursday, Nov.15, from 8-9 p.m. for the Azza Fahmy Trunk Show presented by Syra Arts. Azza Fahmy has been creating unique, hand-crafted jewelry pieces for over 40 years and has gained many celebrity fans, including Rihanna and Gillian Anderson. Her jewelry pays tribute to her Egyptian history by featuring bold metal work, precious stones and decorative calligraphy. Get there early because these stunning items are sure to sell out!
It’s also time to pamper your pooch and get ready for those adorable holiday photos. Fair Oaks Mall is now offering guests five opportunities to have their pets’ pictures taken with Santa Clause at the Ice Palace, courtesy of Cox Communications. The annual event entitled “Santa Paws” will be offered on Sunday, Nov. 18, from 6:45-8:30 p.m.; Sunday, Nov. 25, from 8-9 p.m.; Sunday, Dec. 2, from 7:30-9 a.m. and again from 8-9 p.m.; and Sunday, Dec.9, from 8-9:30 p.m. By purchasing photos, you will also spread some holiday cheer to those in need; for every special package purchased, Fair Oaks Mall will donate $10 to the Fairfax County Animal Shelter.
Of course, we can’t think of a better way to start off your holiday shopping than hitting up tonight’s Mosaic District Fashion Night! Discounts, bubbly, book signings, shopping for a cause and much more! See you there!
Posted by Carten Cordell / Friday, November 2nd, 2012
If anyone needs a bear hug, it’s the tiniest survivors of Hurricane Sandy, and the newly imagined Build-A-Bear Workshop at Fair Oaks Mall—celebrating its grand opening next Friday, Nov. 9—is making sure at least 200 of the children devastated by the super storm receive just that. Forget merely having a ribbon-cutting ceremony, though the Fairfax mayor will be on hand for one of those, too. In coordination with Northern Virginia Family Services, the first 200 shoppers to shop at the store next Friday (beginning at 10 a.m.) will be given the opportunity to build a bear for a child in need for free.
Build-A-Bear Workshop will also feature family entertainment throughout the day, including appearances by the the store’s mascot, Bearemy. And the store’s philanthropic efforts also include a $10,000 donation to the American Red Cross, for their relief work in storm-ravaged areas.
What a fun way to share the joy of giving and celebrate the importance of compassion with our own kiddos.
Posted by Carten Cordell / Thursday, July 5th, 2012
Just because July 4 is over doesn’t mean sales are. We tend to associate major sales with major holidays and when a particular holiday is over, so too are the discounts, but that’s not true because there are still ongoing sales nearby. Fair Oaks Mall boasts a diverse range of popular stores so check out these listings for current offers you’ll want to take advantage of!
Note: Keep in mind these sales may differ from stores in other malls and may only be applicable to the Fair Oaks Mall branches.
Apple / until July 11
Hey, college students! Splurge on a Mac, and you’ll get money back. Receive $100 to spend on books, apps and music when you buy a Mac.
J. Jill / until July 23
Enjoy 75 percent off select styles.
Ann Taylor / until July 16
Save 70 percent on select blouses, dresses and skirts.
Gap / until July 8
Celebrate America and your style with the Red Bright + Blue Sale featuring 40-percent savings.
Also, T-shirts start at just $10.
Bath & Body Works / until July 8
It’s semi-annual sale time with 75 percent off select items.
Chick-fil-A / only on July 13
You’ll get to preview Halloween early this year by dressing up and getting free food! In celebration of Cow Appreciation Day on July 13, Chick-fil-A will give a free meal to anybody dressed up as a cow from top to bottom. Not that bold? If you wear one cow-related item, you’ll still get a free entrée.
The Fashion Centre at Pentagon City is also holding notable sales right now.
Henri Bendel is having its Brown & White Semi-Annual Sale, Carol’s Daughter natural beauty product store will give out a free membership with a $60 purchase, and Perfumania is holdings its summer 70-percent-off clearance sale.
And what’s to come at the Fashion Centre is perhaps even more exciting:
July 12-14 – Reserve your appointment at the Clarins “Happy Hour” event from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Drink up all the skin and makeup fun with ‘Hand Care Cocktails’ and ‘Mini Makeover-tinis.’