Lawrence's annual citywide sidewalk sale, set for Thursday, seems to start earlier every year. But this year, one downtown store has figured out how to really cater to the early-bird shoppers it just won't close Wednesday night.
The store, Maurice's, 708 Mass., will stay open all night Wednesday as a lead in to the sidewalk sale. Kathy Mattan, store manager, offered a simple explanation for pulling the retail all-nighter.
"We're crazy," she said.
Mattan explained that the idea started as a joking reply to her boss' question about what they should do for an encore after last year's sidewalk sale, in which their first customer arrived at 4:45 a.m. Mattan's answer of staying open all night was taken seriously by a company that prides itself on having fun at the sidewalk sale.
At past sidewalk sales, Mattan said, the store has:
Displayed mannequins wearing leather coats in 100-degree heat.
Hawked merchandise using homemade cardboard megaphones.
Promoted women's swimsuits by having a male model sport the tops over his shirt.
The method to the madness, both for the store and sidewalk sale customers, is simple, Mattan said.
"We ship in extra clearance merchandise for the sidewalk sale," she said. "The early crowd gets a better selection and there's less people around. I think it's going to be busier than we thought.
"The sidewalk sale has evolved into a bigger and bigger event."
Maurice's is not alone in attracting early interest in its sale. Saffee's, 922 Mass., and Mister Guy, 920 Mass., are two of several downtown merchants who are offering pre-sidewalk sale sales at their stores. Steve Mercurio, Saffee's owner, said shoppers need more time to look over sale merchandise.
"We try to give them four solid days," he said of his store's sale, which began Monday and may go through the weekend. "One day does not seem to be enough for people to do their shopping."
Mark Swanson, who is in charge of promoting the sidewalk sale for Downtown Lawrence Inc., said that every downtown business will be involved in the sidewalk sale, and that many stores were offering sales and specials prior to Thursday. He said the starting time of the sale would vary from business to business.
"We'd like to say it's from eight to eight," he said. "But everybody should be open by 7 a.m., and some will be open as early as from 5:30 a.m. to 6 a.m."
The sale will extend beyond the downtown area. Stores throughout Lawrence are planning to participate in the annual event by carting out merchandise to their sidewalks.
The Riverfront Plaza, however, will wait until Labor Day to hold its sidewalk sale. The mall also has a sidewalk sale on Memorial Day.