PITTSFIELD — Let the annual shopping frenzy begin.

The holiday shopping season in the Berkshires begins on Black Friday, and as usual there are plenty of options for shoppers to choose from.

Four retail outlets: Lee Premium Outlets, Ocean State Job Lot in North Adams, Five Below in Pittsfield, and Olympia Sports in Pittsfield will open at midnight, with KMart in Great Barrington right behind them at 12:01 a.m. The Premium Outlets have opened at midnight every year since 2007.

A handful of other retailers, including the entire Berkshire Mall in Lanesborough, will follow shortly thereafter. Many others will open at staggered times beginning at 6 a.m.

Nationally, 71 percent of Americans — more than seven in 10 — plan to deck the malls and other retail shopping outlets over the Thursday-Sunday Thanksgiving weekend, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers.

The National Retail Federation expects 135.8 million Americans to shop on Thanksgiving weekend this year.

Retail stores are open on Thanksgiving Day everywhere except in Massachusetts, Maine and Rhode Island.

Several economic signs point to a successful shopping weekend this year, according to Bob Hughes, a senior research fellow for the American Institute of Economic Research in Great Barrington.


"If you look over the last 12 months we've created 2.8 million jobs, unemployment is under 5 percent, and in the economy as a whole there's been a gain in wages," Hughes said.

The rate of take-home pay over the entire economy has increased by 4 to 4.5 percent this year; household net worth is at a record high, while debt service is at a 30-year low.

"It does seem that way," Hughes said, when asked if all the economic numbers were pointing in the right direction this weekend.

"We're not expecting a gloomy holiday season," he said. "I don't think any records will be set but 4 to 4.5 percent growth from last year is pretty good."

"Terrorism attacks could have an impact," Hughes said. "But it could be very hard to predict something like that."

Here's some good news for brick and mortar outlets: 59 percent of shoppers nationally are expected to purchase items in an actual store this year, according to the shopping center group. Of that number, 41 percent are expected to shop on Black Friday.

Cyber Monday, a day associated with online shopping, also is shaping up to be an in-store day. Thirty-two percent of shoppers nationally say they plan to in-store shop on Cyber Monday, the second-highest percentage behind Black Friday.

Nearly 80 percent of shoppers, or 183.8 million, plan to shop on Cyber Monday, according to the NRF.

Several Berkshire County small businesses are participating in Small Business Saturday, a promotion sponsored by American Express that began in 2010.

"We certainly hope that consumers will shop local after they've done all their Black Friday shopping," said Kristine Hurley, the managing director of Downtown Pittsfield Inc.

In Hillsdale, N.Y., the Hillsdale Business Alliance is sponsoring "Shop Small, Shop Hillsdale" on Saturday.

Contact Tony Dobrowolski at 413-496-6224.

Store hours ...

Here are the opening times for Berkshire retailers on Black Friday:

Midnight: Lee Premium Outlets; Ocean State Job Lot (North Adams); and Five Below and Olympia Sports (Pittsfield)

12:01 a.m.: KMart (Great Barrington)

12:05 a.m.: Sears (Berkshire Mall, Lanesborough)

12:15 a.m.: Berkshire Mall stores

12:30 a.m.: Dick's Sporting Goods (Pittsfield); and JCPenney and Macy's (Berkshire Mall)

1 a.m. : Target (Berkshire Mall); Walmart (North Adams, Pittsfield)

6 a.m.: Staples (Pittsfield, Great Barrington); Home Depot (Pittsfield); Peebles Department Store (North Adams); Bed, Bath & Beyond (Pittsfield); and Olympia Sports (Great Barrington, North Adams); Tractor Supply Co. (Pittsfield, North Adams)

7 a.m.: BJ's Wholesale Club, TJ Maxx, Barnes & Noble, Homegoods, Marshalls (Pittsfield) and Dollar General (all stores).

8 a.m.: Radio Shack, Dollar Tree (all stores)