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3:13 PM Fri, July 20th

Biggest shopping weekend of the year is here

The Daily Courier, file

The Daily Courier, file

As shoppers gear up for the holiday season, local businesses are bracing for the rush. Whether it's Turkey Thursday, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday or Cyber Monday, businesses across the quad-city area are planning for some of the busiest shopping days of the year.

Many big-box retailers here are open today, including Target, Wal-Mart, JCPenney and Kohls. Target, JCPenney and Kohls will open at 8 p.m., while Wal-Mart will be open all day Thursday and Friday.

At Prescott Gateway Mall, which changed ownership in November, shoppers will get a number of surprises on Black Friday, including free morning coffee provided by My Cup Runneth Over. Shoppers also will be eligible for more than $1,500 in gift cards. Radio station Magic 99.1 and host Leza will be on hand with their "Spin to Win" game. Black Friday events are scheduled to begin at 6 a.m.

"Our retailers are offering really spectacular Black Friday deals this year, and we're expecting a record turnout," said Gateway Mall Manager Bob Liples. "We're hopeful that the Prescott community takes advantage of our stores' impressive sales and specials.

"We're also hopeful that shoppers will visit our Salvation Army Angel Tree to share some holiday cheer with local needy families," he added.

Small Business Saturday on Nov. 30, sponsored by the Prescott Chamber of Commerce, encourages local shopping by providing gift bags and two $25 American Express gift cards to 25 local businesses to offer as incentives for shoppers to visit their stores. Last year, shoppers lined up outside the chamber offices for the free gift cards. Chamber officials changed it up this year by offering a special drawing for the businesses to offer the cards themselves.

Prescott Chamber of Commerce CEO David Maurer said, with sunny skies predicted through the weekend, he expects to see a high number of shoppers in the community.

"Small Business Saturday will hopefully get people thinking about the many small local businesses that have unique items. There are opportunities for everyone. There's no need to take a long trip down the Interstate, for example, since we take care of most things right here," Maurer said.

In 2012, online shoppers spent close to $1.5 billion on Cyber Monday, a 17 percent increase from 2011 numbers, according to Better Business Bureau (BBB). When it comes to online shopping, whether on Cyber Monday or another day, "trustmarks" indicate whether shoppers are visiting a reliable website. A seller's reputation and customer satisfaction record can also be found by visiting the BBB online at www.bbb.org.

Other online shopping recommendations include being cautious of any deal that is too good to be true. In some cases, "free" gift offers that require a credit card may lead to charges for products or services the consumer did not order. The BBB recommends paying attention to a website's privacy policy, their terms and conditions, and return and refund policies.

When ordering online, shoppers should always ensure they are on a secure website location before providing credit card information by looking for the "s" in "https" or a lock symbol typically found in the lower right corner of the screen. BBB officials also recommend saving all online receipts and never sending online money transfers to people they do not trust.

Following the busy shopping season, Ya-vapai County BBB office director Mary Hawkes recommends shoppers try to resolve any issues with a particular business before calling the BBB office.

"So many of our local companies are trustworthy and have been here a while. Community members do shop there and trust them. So many of our local businesses are willing to work things out with customers, but the customers just needs to bring it to their attention. We always suggest that first," Hawkes said.