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Black Friday shoppers seek sense of normalcy

The annual holiday shopping kick-off has been evolving for a number of years before the coronavirus pandemic changed it abruptly and now it's changing again in a move back to a Friday event away from Thanksgiving with online options, curbside pickup and deals all month long and into December.

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For Kelsey Bollig and Katie Golombiecki, Little Falls, shopping on Black Friday in Baxter this year was a chance to return to a tradition upset last year by the pandemic. Renee Richardson / Brainerd Dispatch

BAXTER — In the pre-dawn cold, shoppers outside Target in Baxter jumped up and down, counting the minutes until the doors opened.

Shoppers may have been out in smaller numbers, but the hardy were ready to reap the benefits of sales and gain back the familiar experience. The air temperature was about 22 degrees but it felt colder.

For Kelsey Bollig and Katie Golombiecki, who drove up from Little Falls, one benefit from this year was only needing to be in line for 20 minutes before the store opened. They were at the front of the line at Target for the 7 a.m. opening Friday.

Bollig was looking for a Roku and something a little more intangible these days. Part of the appeal of the early morning holiday ritual, scrubbed last year because of COVID-19, was the sense of “having a normal life,” Bollig said.

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The parking lot at Kohl's indicated a strong showing for the store's Black Friday crowd about 7:30 a.m. Nov. 26, 2021. The department store opened at 5 a.m. for Black Friday sales. Renee Richardson / Brainerd Dispatch

Bollig said they always come up for Black Friday.

“I like the rush,” Bollig said of shopping with the crowd on Black Friday.

Golombiecki said she was looking for savings and shopping, adding kids are expensive.

“Deals — I can taste them,” Golombiecki said and smiled.

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A sign points the way to deals at Walmart on Black Friday, Nov. 26, 2021. Renee Richardson / Brainerd Dispatch

Behind them, the line that in past Black Friday’s would have stretched the length of the building and into the parking lot terminated about halfway down the sidewalk in front of the building. People stepped out of their cars and joined the ranks once the line began flowing into the stores, with a few line jumpers getting a cross look and a reminder it wasn’t the fair way to do it.

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Some area stores opened at 5 a.m. Bollig and Golombiecki were already at Menards earlier in the morning.

Black Friday has been evolving for a number of years, from a dedicated mini rush of early morning shoppers with the hour moving ever earlier each year until the stores began opening on Thanksgiving day, first that night and later opening before a host of people had their turkeys ready for the noon meal. A backlash had other stores moving to open on Black Friday and not encroach into a day traditionally set aside for food, family, friends and football. Shoppers previously planned out shopping strategies, knowing the bottlenecks to avoid with the crowds.

Then came 2021.

Large retailers opened Friday morning. Judging by the vehicles in the parking lot at Kohl’s about 7:30 a.m., the store had a healthy response to its Black Friday offerings. Shoppers were out at Best Buy, Walmart, the Westgate Mall, TJ Maxx, Ulta Beauty, PetSmart and Dick’s Sporting Goods — all before 8 a.m.
The experience side of the day, the rush of finding the right gift or deal or making it an event as well as a shopping trip is behind the work of the Destination Downtown Business Coalition for festivities with Small Business Saturday and the weeklong Hometown Holidays event culminating with the lighting of the city hall Christmas tree at 5 p.m. Dec. 3.

RELATED: Hometown Holidays Small Business Saturday

After the tree lighting Dec. 3 is the third annual Downtown Window Walk from 5-7 p.m., with businesses open late with their decorated windows and opportunity for shoppers to vote for their favorite.

Friday, shoppers were back but in smaller numbers and those who wanted to avoid the holiday crowds were able to find the Black Friday deals online for the big box stores and have their orders delivered to their vehicles in curbside pickups, which Target recently expanded to handle additional volume.

“It feels like a normal shopping day,” Bollig said. “It hasn’t been too crazy.”

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Renee Richardson, managing editor, may be reached at 218-855-5852 or renee.richardson@brainerddispatch.com. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchBizBuzz.

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