Black Friday shoppers say it's all about the experience
For some Black Friday shoppers, the sales are just icing on the cake during what many shoppers dub as a family tradition and thrilling experience.
The thrill, the adrenaline rush, the holiday spirit and overall atmosphere drive scores of shoppers to queue outside stores the day after Thanksgiving — Black Friday — to grab can’t-miss deals.
After the initial holiday shopping rush that started Thursday afternoon at big box stores like Target, Kohl’s and Best Buy, crowds dwindled late that night and into Friday morning, though shoppers didn’t disappear completely.
Best Buy and Target closed their doors at 1 a.m. Friday, Nov. 29, before opening back up the next morning. About 30 cars remained in the Target parking lot a few minutes before 1 a.m. Cars thinned out at Walmart around 1 a.m., too, though the store is open 24 hours a day.
A steady stream of cars drove down Highway 371 in Baxter during the early and still dark hours of Friday morning.
Dick’s Sporting Goods, Ulta Beauty, Dunham’s Sports and Fleet Farm opened at 5 a.m. Friday, some for the first time since Wednesday and some continuing sales from Thursday.
Menards was closed Thursday but opened up at 6 a.m. Friday. Store manager Joe Kadolph said the family-owned company likes letting employees spend time with their families on Thanksgiving Day.
“We’re dedicated to that,” he said Friday morning outside the store.
But when the doors did open, customers streamed inside, with the earliest shoppers waiting in line since about 4:30 a.m.
“We keep our expectations high at our store. We work awfully hard getting ready, and we’ve got a great variety in our ads,” Kadolph said, stressing the word “variety.”
“I’ve had people ask about the 58-volt Jonsered chain saw a lot. The Masterforce tool line up is incredible, which is a contractor grade tool,’ he added. “There’s the Jack Links snacks and mugs and all that.
“There were some people in Wednesday when we were getting ready, and they’re nothing but smiles on that type of thing. So whether you’re looking for something big or small, we’ve got a little bit of everything — or a lot of everything, I should say.”
After some Thursday night shopping, Tabatha Lindula and her daughter-in-law Brittany Meachem left their homes in the Staples-Motley area at 3:45 a.m. to get to Fleet Farm early, before heading to Menards in search of tools and hunting scopes — “guy things,” Meachem said.
Clad in bright pink camouflage bibs to keep warm in the 25-degree weather, adrenaline was the main force driving Black Friday shopping for Lindula, who has been honoring the tradition for about 20 years.
“It’s tradition. It started, and it’s something we do,” she said as she stood outside in line at Menards around 5:45 a.m.
“And I have to say,” Lindula added, “the stores this year deserve props because every store that we’ve been to since last night have been in and out within like 20-25 minutes.”
The duo agreed staggered store openings helped this year so they were able to get to both Fleet Farm and Menards before each store opened.
Up toward the beginning of the Menards line, which curved around the store and onto Whispering Woods Lane by the time the store opened, were Gail Benson, her daughter Allyson Benson and Allyson’s fiance Brandon Dunford, who arrived around 4:30 a.m.
For Gail, who has been Black Friday shopping for more than 20 years, it’s more the experience versus the sales, though she was hoping to find some good deals on items like metal detectors, jumper cables and dog beds.
“We’re so used to it. It’s fun,” she said, noting in years past, she enjoyed seeing many of the same people at the front of the lines.
Dunford agreed, adding he likes the social and family aspects of it and the ritual of getting up early and grabbing coffee at the gas station before hitting the stores.
Farther back toward the end of the line a Pillager group of Kim Martin and her parents, Tracey and Darrel Thomas, used the light of their phones to look through the advertisements and strategize.
“I really pursue the ads and make sure there’s things I want to come in for,” Martin said. “... It’s a good experience, but I wouldn’t come in just for that.”
Items on the group’s list included under cabinet music system, dog beds and a portable DVD player.
“If we think there’s something that’s going to be popular, we try to get that out of the way first because otherwise you miss out on it,” Martin said, noting items like blankets are on sale every year and never seem to run out.
Tracey said she enjoys the whole experience, not only getting good deals but talking with people in line both outside and at the checkouts.
Even Darrel, who dubbed himself as merely the driver, said Black Friday shopping is a fun experience.
For Bowlus resident Jame Scepurek, saving money and finding the best Black Friday deals are the main draw to the high-volume shopping day, though he admitted there’s also a certain thrill of watching other shoppers as well. Instead of going to St. Cloud, like in years past, Scepurek opted for the less busy Brainerd lakes area, which still offers a variety of good sales.
Despite the hustle and bustle of shoppers hoping to be the first through the doors and get a head start on their Christmas lists, this year’s consumers seemed to agree that the “Minnesota Nice” attitude still remained.
“People are so nice,” Martin said. “We haven’t had any bad experiences.”
Baxter resident Ron Gross said he was in and out of Fleet Farm in about 15 minutes that morning after dropping his wife off at work at Menards.
Gross’ 8-year-old daughter Kesha wasn’t crazy about getting up so early to shop but happily chatted about the free plush llama she got, which Fleet Farm gave to the first 500 customers. She was hoping for more toys as the day went on, but her dad’s list was pretty short.
“We’re just going for batteries and walking out,” Gross said, then adding: “Maybe a toy or two — whatever we find on the way. But our goal is to get to the checkout line in like 15 minutes because the line will get long.”
Though Black Friday usually takes the cake as the biggest shopping day of the weekend, holiday shopping continues through the weekend and into early next week and through the next weeks. While the Black Friday weekend is big, the next busiest shopping days are generally the Saturday before Christmas, dubbed Super Saturday, followed by Dec. 26 and the weekends leading up to Christmas. Retail experts list Christmas Eve as the seventh busiest day for in-store foot traffic of the top 10 days, Forbes reported.
Some stores, like Fleet Farm, boast two-day sales available through Saturday, while many locally owned shops promote the day as Small Business Saturday, encouraging consumers to shop locally. The Monday after Thanksgiving is typically known as Cyber Monday, with online retailers offering a plethora of sales.
THERESA BOURKE may be reached at email@example.com or 218-855-5860. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchTheresa.