It’s beginning to look a lot like Black Friday

Merchants talk about the importance of the day after Thanksgiving to the overall health of their business

Santa

BIG GAY SANTA | Fete-ish owner Chad Vogel placed a big Santa over his doorway in time to welcome Black Friday shoppers to his Bishop Arts District store. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

Although most gay shopkeepers don’t approach Black Friday with the same frenzied mentality as mainstream retailers, the day after Thanksgiving is nonetheless important to their businesses.

To get the edge of those holiday shopping dollars, big box stores have been opening earlier and earlier. Wal-Mart even announced its Friday hours will begin on Thursday this year.

Dallas’ LGBT retailers haven’t turned the day into that kind of maniacal hysteria, but gay merchants on Cedar Springs Road and in the Bishop Arts District want customers to know they depend on good sales this weekend, too.

“Oh my God! It’s very important,” Skivvies owner David Richardson of the day-after-Thanksgiving shopping rush.

He said that he and partner Todd Seaton get to the store three hours early that day to start setting up, and business starts the minute they open the doors. He schedules extra help for the day and stays in the store himself from open until close to help answer questions, work the register and bag items.

“We’ll have discounts on some groups of merchandise throughout the store,” Richardson said, but every category sells well that day.

Black Friday accounts for as much as 20 percent of the Christmas season sales at Skivvies.

“It can be the biggest day of the year,” Richardson said. Only the day before Halloween rivals it.

Nuvo salesperson Daneen Foster agreed. She said she expected her store to be busy from open until close on Black Friday, even without any special promotions.

“We’re just going to be here with our fabulous merchandise, free gift wrapping and a knowledgeable, helpful and friendly staff,” she said.

TapeLenders owner Mark Milburn said, “This is the first time we’ve publicized Black Friday specials.”

In the past, he hasn’t noticed a big spike in business, but he said he thinks his “buy one, get one free” offer on adult videos and an additional 10 percent off on clearance items would especially boost sales.

Things are a little different for OutLines.

“It’s not one of our busier days, like at the malls,” owner David Lester said.

He said that for the past three years, Black Friday has been no better than any other Friday at OutLines. However, to boost sales over the holiday weekend this year, Lester planned to open the store from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day.

During those four hours last year, he said, he did more business than on the traditional shopping day. He said that specials would be offered throughout the store during the weekend.

“But our biggest weekend is Pride,” Lester said. “And First Wednesday is always a good night for us.”

Bishop Arts retailers report less reliance on a Black Friday surge.

Bishop Street Market owner Mike Harrity said it is usually busier than a normal Friday, but he expects to do much more business on Small Business Saturday. That is an American Express promotion started last year that gives $25 off to anyone that uses an Amex card in a small business on the Saturday following Black Friday.

“Down here we have Jingle Bells on Bishop,” Fete-ish owner Chad Vogel said.

That event takes place the following week.

“We’ll have live entertainment,” Vogel said. “Thousands of people roll through that weekend.”
Harrity agreed that Jingle Bells on Bishop was his store’s biggest weekend of the year

But Vogel said that Thanksgiving weekend does give his store a healthy and welcome spike in sales.

Then he reacted to the question of how gay stores do on Black Friday.

“What makes you think our store is gay?” he asked as he was lighting up the big pink Santa whose mouth is the front door of the store, while other employees were spraying tinsel and glitter everywhere.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 25, 2011.

 

—  Kevin Thomas

JCPenney returns to Dallas retail

It has been an irony on the level of the Big Tobacco office building being smoke-free or the beef industry lobbying group having vegetarian options on its cafeteria menu. JCPenney, once the ruler of catalogue sales and a retail captain, is based in North Texas but has not had a Dallas store since the one in NorthPark Center closed in the late 1990s.

Well, it’s back. And with a lot of style.

The new store, which officially opened at Skillman Road and Northwest Highway last weekend, is part of a huge new complex that includes a gigantic Wal-Mart that probably warrants its own congressman. The JCP store isn’t as big, but it is fairly fancy.

JCP has always been a mid-range seller that doesn’t compete with fellow Dallas-based icon Neiman Marcus but brags that is does offer style for less. (It’s VP in charge of design, Geoffrey Henning, is a longtime supporter and designer for DIFFA.) The new store — clean and fresh as a newly minted penny — lives up to the promise.

JCP staffers brag that the store is now the exclusive retailer for what they say is the most recognized name in women’s fashion, Liz Claiborne, though the designs have been updated from the 1970s-era when the brand became famous. Credit uber-gay Isaac Mizrahi, its comparatively new creative director, with turning things around. There are a number of exclusive deals and in-house labels at JCP, including a juniors line from the Olsen Twins, but the new venue is most excited about its MNG by Mango store-within-a-store, which does fast fashions for women. Another innovation: An in-house salon where you can get your hair cut or an entire makeover if you need it, then continue on with your bargain shopping.

The men’s department is smaller than the women’s, but the J. Ferrar line of clothes, pictured, is worth a look, and if you’re a fragrance junkie, an in-store Sephora shop.

For shopaholics like me, it’s always fun to browse at a new store, not only to see what’s new (lots of fall fashions are already out, despite the 99-degree temperatures this week) but also to take advantage of the bargains and enjoy the enthusiasm of a fresh staff in a beautiful space. And JCPenney doesn’t scrimp on the sales, coupons and discounts. It’s a great place to check out something new and save money doing it.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

In NYC, gay groups are fighting Wal-Mart

A while back we told you how the anti-gay Wal-Mart plans to take over Dallas by building 12 new stores here. Little did we know at the time that the man who’s taking “credit” for bringing the new Wal-Mart stores to Dallas, former Mayor Tom Leppert, would show his stripes as a back-stabbing homophobe only days later. Anyhow, we just wanted to note that in New York City, LGBT groups are taking stands against allowing Wal-Mart to come into the city — due to the group’s anti-gay employment practices. Change.org reports:

Last week, Change.org writer Lauren Kelley noted that the Stonewall Democratic Club of New York City issued a statement opposing the construction of a WalMart in the Big Apple. Their reasons for opposing WalMart? Pretty straightforward, really: the company receives a dismal grade when it comes to workplace equality, the company’s CEO supported efforts in Arkansas to ban LGBT people from adopting children, and last year, more than 100 WalMart stores announced that they would carry a book championing ex-gay therapy.

Yuck, indeed. Now this week comes word that another heavyweight organization is lending their voice in the effort to keep WalMart out of New York City. That group? The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, which issued a statement this week knocking WalMart’s record on LGBT equality.

“With the expansion of Wal-Mart stores comes the expansion of antiquated employment policies that provide little to no protections for, and at times even hostility toward, their LGBT employees,” the Task Force said in a statement.

—  John Wright

Anti-gay Walmart to add 12 stores in Dallas

Walmart plans to open 12 new stores in Dallas, according to a celebratory press release sent out by Mayor Tom Leppert’s office earlier today.

Unfortunately, the LGBT community doesn’t have much reason to celebrate.

Walmart scores a dismal 40 out of 100 on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index, based on the company’s treatment of LGBT workers.

The world’s largest retailer was docked 15 points on the CEI for resisting shareholder efforts to add gender identity to it employment nondiscrimination policy. According to HRC, Walmart and ExxonMobil Corp. are the only two top 10 companies that have yet to add gender identity to their nondiscrimination policies.

Also, unlike the majority of Fortune 500 companies, Wal-Mart doesn’t offer domestic partner benefits to its employees except where required by law.

Walmart withdrew its support for LGBT organizations in 2007 after conservative Christian groups threatened a boycott. And in 2008, CEO Mike Duke signed a petition in support of banning gay adoption in Arkansas.

In other words, we’d rather shop at Target.

The city’s full press release is after the jump.

—  John Wright

HRC accused of ‘spitting in face’ of Milk’s memory

Cleve Jones, others criticize organization’s plans for ‘Action Center’ at site of slain gay rights leader’s Castro Street store

Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO — On the surface, the new tenant at the storefront where Harvey Milk waged his historic political campaign would seem like the last organization to anger people in the gay community.

The Human Rights Campaign, the United States’ largest gay rights lobbying group, wants to open up an information center and a gift shop in the building that would pay tribute to the slain gay rights leader.

But Milk’s friends and admirers are so incensed at the group taking over the slain San Francisco supervisor’s stomping grounds that they would rather see a Starbucks there, underscoring the tensions that exist within the various factions of the gay rights movement.

The organization is a frequent target of criticism from gay rights activists who consider its mainstream, “inside the Beltway” style ineffective. They believe the organization’s philosophy of incremental progress in the gay rights movement runs completely counter to the uncompromising message of gay pride championed by Milk.

“It’s spitting in the face of Harvey’s memory,” said AIDS Memorial Quilt founder Cleve Jones, who received his political education at Milk’s side in the 1970s.

“What’s next? Removing the Mona Lisa’s face and replacing it with the Wal-Mart smiley face?” asked Bil Browning, the founder of a popular gay issues blog.

The Washington-based nonprofit organization announced last week that it was moving its San Francisco “Action Center” and gift store into the site of Milk’s old Castro Camera.

It’s a historic site in the gay rights community. A sidewalk plaque outside that marks the spot’s historical significance and encases some of Milk’s ashes is a popular stop for visitors making pilgrimages to San Francisco gay landmarks.

In the 32 years since Milk was assassinated at City Hall along with Mayor George Moscone, the building has housed a clothing store, a beauty supply shop, and most recently, a housewares emporium.

HRC President Joe Solmonese said the new location will stock items bearing Milk’s words and image, with a portion of the proceeds going to a local elementary school named in Milk’s honor and the GLBT Historical Society. The organization also plans to preserve a Milk mural the previous tenants installed, Solmonese said.

“People are rightly protective of the legacy of Harvey Milk, and we intend to do our part to honor that legacy,” Human Rights Campaign spokesman Michael Cole-Schwartz said. “Bringing an LGBT civil rights presence to the space that has previously been several for-profit retail outlets is a worthwhile goal.”

Not according to activists like Jones and Dustin Lance Black, the screenwriter who won an Oscar for Milk — the 2008 Sean Penn movie about the first openly gay man elected to a major elected office in the U.S.

During his life, Milk railed against well-heeled gay leaders he regarded as assimilationists and elitists — Black devoted two scenes in Milk to the subject. Some of the leading activists he crossed swords with went on to launch the Human Rights Campaign, which sometimes is criticized for focusing on lavish fundraisers and political access at the expense of results, Jones said.

“He was not an ‘A-Gay’ and had no desire to be an A-Gay. He despised those people and they despised him,” he said. “That, to me, is the crowd HRC represents. Don’t try to wrap yourself up in Harvey Milk’s mantle and pretend you are one of us.”

The Human Rights Campaign has been struggling to regain its credibility with gay activists who favor a more grassroots approach since at least early 2008, when the group agreed to endorse a federal bill that included job protections for gays and lesbians, but not transgender people.

The disillusionment grew later that year with the passage of a same-sex marriage ban in California. Although HRC donated $3.4 million to fight Proposition 8, the devastating loss provoked young gay activists to take to the streets and to question the organizing and messaging abilities of established gay rights groups.

Since then, HRC has been accused of taking too soft an approach with President Barack Obama and the Congress that until last month’s election was controlled by Democrats. To some, the group’s failings were epitomized by the U.S. Senate failure last week, for the second time this year, to repeal the ban on gays serving openly in the U.S. military.

Black said HRC’s failure to talk to anyone close to Milk before it leased the Castro Street storefront demonstrates that it is out of touch. He and Jones think the space would be put to better use as a drop-in center for gay and lesbian youth, or if HRC partnered with another local nonprofit to ensure its sales benefit San Francisco.

“If any LGBTQ political organization is to move into Harvey’s old shop, there is a higher standard to be met, because such a move begs comparisons,” Black said. “Because it has become a tourist destination, whoever moves in that’s a political organization is in some way adopting Harvey as their own.”

HRC creative director Don Kiser understands the concerns and says he is open to suggestions, but thinks the criticism is overstated. The group obtains about one-third of the new names on its mailing lists from visitors to its retail stores in San Francisco, Provincetown, Massachusetts, and Washington. Each tourist who goes in to buy a Harvey Milk T-shirt or an HRC tote bag is a potential activist, Kiser says.

“They live in small towns in Texas and flyover states. Those are the people we need to help find the spirit that Harvey Milk had,” he said. “If they can go back and take a little of the spirit the Castro has, we will see sea changes.”

—  John Wright

Holiday giving down to HIV/AIDS food pantry, and $1 million from Wal-Mart probably wouldn’t hurt


Holiday donations have decreased this year to Resource Center Dallas’ HIV/AIDS food pantry, according to RCD spokesman Rafael McDonnell.

McDonnell told us this morning that the food pantry’s annual holiday donation drive, which began at Thanksgiving, is critical to providing clients with nutrition into the new year and through the winter.

“There will be less money to buy the groceries we need, which will mean potentially less selection and that kind of stuff,” McDonnell said. “I don’t know how much we’re off by. Obviously every bit that people contribute helps. The perception is the economy hasn’t gotten any better. The need is still there. The need doesn’t change.”

According to RCD’s annual holiday giving letter, here’s what even a small contribution to the food pantry can do:

• $30 provides vital, fresh food for a person living with HIV for an entire month. For $1.00 a day, your gift will provide groceries for a client from our food pantry – a mini grocery store in which clients fill their own baskets with a selection of dietician-monitored foods, empowering clients to make choices based on their own needs, likes and dietary requirements.

• $50 provides a daily hot meal for a person living with HIV for one month. For less than $1.70 a day, your gift will feed a client a nutritious meal – a salad bar filled with fresh produce, main course, two vegetables and a dessert – all prepared by the loving hands of Miss Doris and her loyal volunteers.

• $120 can feed a person living with HIV through the winter. For less than $1.00 a day, your gift will ensure that a member of our community has hot meals to keep them warm and sustain them through the coldest months of the year.

To donate to the food pantry, go here.

Also today, Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert’s chief of staff Chris Heinbaugh sends along word that Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington is vying to win $1 million from Wal-Mart’s “fight hunger together” Facebook challenge. But Leppert, Fort Worth Mayor Mike Moncrief and Arlington Mayor Robert Cluck need your help. The metropolitan area with the most Facebook “likes” by the end of the year wins the $1 million, with the next five each receiving $100,000. Right now, however, D-FW-Arl. is in 10th place.

While we’re not particularly big fans of Wal-Mart, Heinbaugh points out that if D-FW-Arl. wins, the beneficiary will be the North Texas Food Bank, which of course serves RCD’s food pantry. So you might as well go here and click “like,” then pass it along to all your friends.

—  John Wright

More on Sunday’s armed robbery in Oak Lawn, and an enhanced photo of that fake U.S. marshal

Dallas police on Tuesday released an enhanced photo (right) of the man they say posed as a U.S. marshal and assaulted a traffic control volunteer last week in Oak Lawn. Police are also asking local TV stations to play dash-cam video from the incident on the air again. We’ve posted a report from Fox containing the video, as well as DPD’s recycled bulletin from last week, after the jump.

Also, Instant Tea obtained additional information Tuesday about a robbery that occurred late Sunday night on Oak Lawn Avenue. According to Dallas police, when the victim exited his vehicle in the parking lot of Office Depot at 2929 Oak Lawn Ave., the suspect pointed a gun to his head and forced him back into the car. The suspect got in the back seat and told the victim to drive to the Bank of America at Haskell Avenue and North Central Expressway. When the victim was unable to withdraw cash from the ATM, the suspect struck him in the back of the head with the gun. The suspect then told the victim to drive to the Wal-Mart Neighborhood Store at 2305 N. Central Expy., where the suspect forced the victim to go inside and withdraw $20. Finally, the suspect made the victim drop him off at Hall Street and the Central Expressway service road. Police initially believed the suspect may have been captured on video at Wal-Mart, but Sr. Cpl. Kevin Janse informs us today that this is not the case. Again, per yesterday’s alert, the suspect is described as a black male about 40 years old, 5 feet 5 inches tall and weighing about 220 pounds. He has a scar under his right eye and was wearing a white T-shirt, blue jeans and a black hat. Anyone with information should call 214-671-4071 or 911.

—  John Wright

Target: What do you think?

In today’s Dallas Voice, I wrote an article about the unofficial Target boycott.

I’m not boycotting, but I haven’t been shopping there either, at least until something is resolved.

Yes, the president of the company apologized, but no, he didn’t do anything to show his remorse. The fact that he just hired right-wing Sen. John Thune’s former chief of staff said to me that the donation and sudden sharp turn to the right was intentional.

While researching the story, I stopped by Target in Oak Lawn. In the article I wrote:

Employees at Target at Cityplace refused to say whether or not their business has been affected but told this reporter to leave the store.

Here’s what happened: I approached an employee who did not have any customers nearby. I identified myself as a reporter and said I was working on a story about the boycott of Target. I asked if she’d noticed any difference.

“You need to get out of here now,” she said.

I thanked her and told her she would appear in the paper. And regardless of whether the boycott ends with a happy resolution, I probably won’t be going back to Target anytime soon.

The incident was really no big deal, but it seemed to indicate how on edge everyone at Target is about the issue.

David Ethridge, a gay Dallas man who’s been going after Target, had a lot more to say than what I included in the story.

“I’ve heard several people attempt to defend Target by pointing out its past benevolence to our community,” Ethridge said.

“Here’s the thing: I may help you move or give you a ride to the airport, but if I’m poisoning your tea behind your back, then I’m not your friend. What Target did was short-sighted and indefensible. Its leadership should act like adults, apologize, and make it right, so we can all go back about our business.

“Hundreds of thousands of people have pledged to take their fair-minded money elsewhere, but it’s too early to know what impact that will have long-term. The biggest advantage that Target had over competitors Like Wal-Mart and Kmart was image. The company’s image has been very carefully cultivated with millions of dollars in slick ads and designer collaborations over the years to appeal to a more style-conscious and progressive value shopper. The long-term detriment to the company may lie in the damage to that image.

“Effective social media is crucial to retailers in today’s economy. Target’s Facebook and Twitter pages have been a complete wreck for weeks, with customers screaming back-and-forth at each other. The company’s consumer reviews on sites like Google Maps have taken a dive as well.

“Back-to-school is Target’s second-busiest season. But instead of promoting those products, or their new collections from Shaun White and ‘Punky Brewster,’ they’ve been forced to constantly defend their political contributions. They have to ask themselves if this is all really worth some imagined benefit on a future tax form.”

So what do you think? Are you boycotting? Waiting and seeing? Can’t afford to shop elsewhere since Target generally has the lowest overall prices? Don’t have patience to run all over town to other stores? Or is Target not that convenient to you anyway? And what about Best Buy? We don’t shop there as often, but the LGBT community tends to be loyal Best Buy customers.

NOTE: I just got an e-mail from Paul Schmelzer, editor of the Minnesota Independent. I like to give credit when we know who to credit and Paul broke the story about Tom Emmer and his connection with Bradlee Dean and the Christian band You Can Run But You Cannot Hide. Dean’s the one mentioned in the print article that thinks Muslims have it right with putting gays to death.

—  David Taffet

'Support businesses that support us'

Most people know not to buy gas from ExxonMobil, but did you know that the Human Rights Campaign also recommends avoiding Office Depot, Radio Shack, Wal-Mart and Cracker Barrel based on their LGBT-related employment practices?

Just in time for the holiday shopping season, HRC has released its annual buyers guide, which rates hundreds of popular businesses and brands according to how they treat gays.

In a press release, HRC notes that the LGBT community is estimated to have $712 billion in buying power this year, according to research by Witeck-Combs Communications and MarketResearch.com. A recent study by Witeck-Combs/Harris Interactive also found that 78 percent of LGBT people are extremely or very likely to consider brands that are known to provide equal workplace benefits for their employees, including LGBT workers.

“Congress is currently considering the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, a critical piece of workplace legislation that will include our community. Until all LGBT Americans get fair treatment in the workplace, we must support businesses that support us. By purchasing products from businesses that support LGBT equality, shoppers send a clear message to businesses that their support, or lack thereof, will directly impact their bottom line,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese.
“From determining which car to purchase, to the right holiday gift for the kids, to everyday grocery shopping, this guide harnesses the power of equality-minded shoppers. At this moment it’s critically important that businesses hear that their customers support businesses that support us.”

To download HRC’s Buying for Equality 2010, go here.

—  John Wright