Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, is often called the Super Bowl of shopping. Black Friday — which this year falls on Nov. 27 — traditionally is the busiest shopping day of the year and kicks off the holiday shopping season, when customers’ purchases can account for 30 to 40 percent of annual retail sales.


But while Black Friday can be a sales bonanza for chains and big-box retailers, it is not always the busiest shopping day for smaller, independently owned stores, such as Run With Us in Pasadena’s Playhouse District.  


“Black Friday is mostly for the malls,” says manager Mike Gonzalez. He says his store, which sells shoes and other running gear, typically does a better business on the Saturday and Sunday following Thanksgiving Day than it does on Black Friday. 


In the past few years Black Friday has begun creeping into Thanksgiving Day, with big-box retailers and chain stores opening earlier than before. According to the Bloomberg View website, in 2013 at least 12 major US retailers opened for the first time on Thanksgiving night or during the morning or afternoon of the holiday.   


This year, however, many retailers are reversing Black Friday creep. Target, Walmart, Macy’s, Sears and Kohl’s will open at 6 p.m. Thanksgiving Day, while Best Buy will open at 5 p.m. More significantly, a number of stores will be closed on Thanksgiving, including Nordstrom, H&M, Costco, DSW, T.J. Maxx, Marshalls, the Home Depot, PetSmart, Patagonia, GameStop, Staples, Pier 1 Imports and REI. 


REI last month announced it will close its 143 stores on Black Friday, and urged shoppers to enjoy outdoor activities instead of spending time inside the mall. Since REI sells gear for outdoor activities, this closure can hardly be called an act of altruism. But CEO Jerry Stritzke told USA Today its Black Friday campaign was not a “financially self-serving act. It’s an act where we’re really making a very clear statement about a set of values.”


While other stores may also be concerned about values, there are significant financial motives for closing or reducing hours on Thanksgiving Day. Despite all the hoopla and early openings, sales over the 2014 four-day Thanksgiving holiday were 11 percent below the previous year, according to the National Retail Federation. 


In addition, many stores now offer Black Friday sales in the weeks — or even months — before the actual day, which further reduces sales revenue during the Thanksgiving holiday. Many customers prefer to shop online. And while some big-ticket items, like large-screen TVs, are deeply discounted on Black Friday, many other items can be purchased at a lower cost at other times of the year.


While large retailers debate the importance of Black Friday in their overall sales strategy, smaller, independent shops have developed their own techniques to compete for holiday business. 


In 2010, American Express organized the first national Small Business Saturday on the day after Black Friday. The event encourages customers to shop at independently owned stores in their communities.

The Pasadena Playhouse District began participating in the event three years ago and will feature a range of activities to promote the area’s stores on Saturday, Nov. 28. Jessica Calderon, the district’s marketing coordinator, says the national event is “a perfect fit” for the district because “it reminds people we’re here, and we have great gifts for the holidays, so it’s great to support local business in the community.” Both sales and foot traffic have increased each year the event has been held, she adds.


This year many stores and restaurants in the district are offering shopping specials and dining deals. Run With Us, for example, will discount regularly priced items by 20 percent; authors will work as salespeople at Vroman’s Bookstore; customers who visit at least four stores can enter a raffle to win a GoPro camera.


Calderon says she is not sure how some major chains’ decisions to close on Thanksgiving or Black Friday will impact Playhouse District sales. However, because a Target store is located in the district, she says customers at that big-box retailer often visit the smaller neighborhood stores. 


Marcie Mae Toombs, owner of the Lula Mae gift boutique on Holly Street in Old Pasadena, said the Old Pasadena Management District stages events that aim to draw shoppers to the area during the holiday season. This year, several hundred independent businesses, craftspeople, chefs and other vendors will participate in the Artisanal LA Holiday Market in Old Pasadena from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 5.


Sam Bills, manager of the Ten Thousand Villages store on South Lake Avenue, says his shop does not offer door-buster sales like the big retailers. Instead, the shop, one of a chain of 80 free-trade stores that sell goods made by people from developing countries, will give a free Christmas ornament to customers who purchase another ornament on Black Friday. And from Nov. 21 through December, 15 percent of the store’s sales revenue will be donated to 30 charities.


“It’s not just about the best deal,” he says. “We want people to think about what they are buying.”