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How to Beat the Big Guys on Black Friday

NEW YORK ( MainStreet) -- Black Friday means business as usual for Simone Oettinger, owner of specialty children's clothing store Maya Papaya & Toni Macarony in Evanston, Ill.

"Black Friday is for the malls and mass merchants and the people who patronize these kinds of establishments," Oettinger says. "It's the day to get your flat-screen TV for a bargain, if you are willing to be in line at 5 a.m. or earlier. That's not the typical profile of the consumer who shops small, local stores -- the people who value service and convenience over getting a 'deal.'"

Black Friday is the biggest shopping day of the year and quickly coming up. Is your retail business ready to take advantage of it?

Oettinger does, however, plan to offer discounts or free shipping to customers on her email list if they make a purchase on Cyber Monday. And she shouldn't dismiss her smaller store's ability to draw customers on Black Friday, a study suggests.

According to a National Retail Federation survey, discount and department stores will take the lion's share of consumer dollars this holiday season, followed by grocery stores and supermarkets, clothing and accessory stores, drugstores and, interestingly enough, craft and fabric stores. Small retailers still have an opportunity to shine during the most important shopping season of the year, though, because consumers are increasingly basing their gift decisions on customer service and quality of merchandise, in addition to discounts and promotions, the survey found.

"Limited budgets and a desire to make the most out of gift giving will drive consumers to shop at a variety of retailers while also thinking outside the box for great gift ideas," said Pam Goodfellow, Consumer Insights Director of BIGresearch, the company that conducted the NRF survey.

Jodi Black, owner of Beautiful Brains Books and Games, has one of those specialized shops -- she sells tabletop role-playing games online and at conventions and trade shows -- and rarely does special promotions.

"Customer service is really key," Black says. "Not only do I keep an index file for every single one of my customers, but a lot of them have friended me on Facebook . That's just how key we are to knowing our customers and knowing what they do and don't like."

Black is offering free shipping for customers that buy from Black Friday through Cyber Monday -- a big deal for her online-only store.

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