Shoppers turn out for Black Friday deals
Sales brought shoppers out early on Thanksgiving day, but not without leaving some conflicted about the choice. For others, Black Friday is now such a changed experience they were nostalgic for midnight openings and a shopping spree with a Friday...
Sales brought shoppers out early on Thanksgiving day, but not without leaving some conflicted about the choice. For others, Black Friday is now such a changed experience they were nostalgic for midnight openings and a shopping spree with a Friday start. Either way, it appears a number of shoppers on this critical weekend for retailers were fine with heading to the store either before or after they sit down to dinner with their families. J.C. Penney Co. opened its doors at 3 p.m. on Thanksgiving to an estimated crowd of about 125 people. Traffic was still light along major highways in Brainerd and Baxter. Inside the store shoppers loaded carts with $2.99 pillows, came with arms wrapped around boxed crockpots or boots or carried out single bags after finding just one or a handful of items on their lists. Christmas music streamed over the store speakers and workers were dressed in holiday attire with antlers on their heads and red-and-white striped fingerless gloves on their hands. In addition to the regular checkout lines, a portable wireless check-out station was added to keep things moving. Dwight Lindgron, who has been with J.C. Penney 40 years, said deals in the home department and small household appliances encouraged shoppers to come out early on Thanksgiving. "They are very price conscious," he said of customers. "But I think they are spending a bit more." In 2010, Lindgron, anticipated store openings creeping toward Thanksgiving. That year, J.C. Penney opened at 3 a.m. on Black Friday. Now, Lindgron wouldn't be surprised if the opening moved closer to noon on Thanksgiving as retailers leapfrog each other to move into the earliest opening spot. Although he noted there is a backlash to the idea. Some established retailers chose not to open on Thanksgiving and published their reasons for doing so putting out statements and commercials noting they wanted to keep the Thanksgiving holiday for their staffs and customers. Others kept the opening after dark on Thanksgiving. TJMaxx, Marshalls and Homegoods even promoted their decision to remain closed in a commercial asking "what if we gathered around a table instead of camping out in a store's parking lot?" Both sides of the debate could be heard in Brainerd and Baxter Thursday. To shop or not to shop A few shoppers in the checkout line at J.C. Penney were glad for the distraction to get out of the house or were shopping while others at home watched football. But several were reluctant to give their names because they already faced criticism from family and friends for shopping early and contributing to stores being open on a holiday where once most were closed. "I don't want to even admit I'm out here because I feel bad for the people," a woman from Baxter said of the store staff. She declined to give her name as did the other two women with her. She said they were drawn by good deals and her children wanted to get out of the house but felt a bit of a stigma for shopping on Thanksgiving. "Some people have said 'what are you doing this for? You have to protest this kind of thing,'" she said. She also went shopping on Thanksgiving last year. "I like this because you don't have to stand in line at 11 o'clock at night to get in at midnight in the freezing cold." Another of the women said another draw in the staggered openings from Thanksgiving afternoon into Friday morning is that it's not as busy. The Baxter resident was able to arrive a few minutes before the store opened and get inside quickly. "It's not everybody fighting to get into one store," the woman said. "You come here, you can do Herberger's at 5 p.m., Target at 6 p.m. It's awesome. ... I still feel I'll be back here again at probably 9 p.m. tonight after I have Thanksgiving dinner with family because I forgot stuff." Paula Gonzalez said she felt so guilty shopping she felt she couldn't make eye contact with the employees and felt bad for them. "It's just the free money. It's hard to pass up. I got two scarves and a pair of gloves for $1.97 and they are beautiful scarves. They sell for $20 a piece. I can give those as gifts so $1.97 for two gifts, it's kind of hard to pass up. I work retail and I do feel guilty." Gonzalez, who lives north of Baxter, said her family played games earlier, had food ready for their candlelit Thanksgiving feast later at night. So they decided to shop for deals while others watched the football games back at home. This is the second year their family shopped on Thanksgiving. One found several shirts and spent $9. "That's why we are here," Gonzalez said. "The positive part is they make it a family thing," Lindgron said, adding some families won't be together again until Christmas and look forward to the opportunity to do their Black Friday shopping together. Lindgron said he hasn't seen trends in demographics since the opening moved to the daytime rather than early morning hours. He said some people make it a family tradition and others don't have the option to shop on Black Friday as they are back at their own jobs. Shoppers started a line at Kohl's in Baxter as the setting sun lit the store front, two hours before the store opened. The day was crisp with the temperatures in the mid-20s and a brisk breeze with a wind chill of 9 degrees, but warmer than a year ago when the high on Black Friday never reached 10 degrees and 4 inches of snow covered the ground. At 4 p.m. at Best Buy, an hour before the store opened, about 40 people were waiting in line, some wearing snowsuits or wrapped in blankets. Others rotated standing in line to save a spot, but allow time to warm up in their cars. Televisions were still a draw for shoppers. About 20 people were in line at Target about an hour before the store opened. At Kohl's, shoppers were in line for $99 TVs with Kohl's cash bringing the price down to $70. Dawn Racky was looking forward to replacing a large tube TV with a new flat TV. The TV deal drew Racky from Randall to wait in line. Others in her group wanted shoes and an Elsa doll, of "Frozen" fame. They were also drawn in free movie tickets for the first 100 customers on Thanksgiving, a $26 value. But most popular may have been PlayStation4s. The camaraderie of the experience was present as strangers readily conversed and shared tips on sales with each other. But several missed the experience Black Friday used to present of getting up in the early morning hours and seeing rush hour traffic at 4 a.m. "We wish it was the middle of night, it's not as much fun when it's this early," said Amanda Magnan of Blaine. She said they are calling Thanksgiving Gray Thursday. Magnan was with Becky and Caleb Koons of Brainerd. It was Caleb Koons first Black Friday event and he wasn't impressed with standing in the cold. But the PlayStation4 was too good to pass up. Shelley Lumsden, Pillager, was first in line at Kohl's. Her list included a PlayStation and she wanted the Kohl's cash, which she planned to use later for shoes. She said her 10-year-old son wanted the PlayStation for Christmas and she was going to use the gift to help encourage his good behavior. They didn't have Thanksgiving plans so shopping early on the holiday, while a first for her, wasn't a conflict. Cecilia Morales, Bluffton, said their family meal at her sister-in-law's house was 12:30 p.m. and by about 2 p.m. they were headed out to get the Black Friday deals. She said It was thanks for pie and out the door. "You don't even get a chance to enjoy Thanksgiving with your family," Morales said. "You are 'thanks for lunch I gotta go.'" Morales said she'd rather retailers keep the day on Friday, but felt she couldn't pass on Black Friday deals. She said: "Black Friday is the Super Bowl for shoppers." RENEE RICHARDSON, associate editor, may be reached at 218-855-5852 or email@example.com . Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Dispatchbizbuzz .