Shoppers undaunted by Thursday start keep Black Friday sales going strong


Shoppers begin early on Black Friday at the Oaks Mall in Gainesville, Fla., Friday, November 23, 2012.

Erica Brough/Staff Photographer
Published: Friday, November 23, 2012 at 11:05 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, November 23, 2012 at 11:05 a.m.

Black Friday is well-known for early-morning shopper stampedes and occasional fistfights between unruly shoppers, but this year it pitted traditional values against competitive concerns.

In an effort to stay competitive, stores such as Target pushed Black Friday back to Thursday, opening their doors Thanksgiving night while retailers such as Best Buy launched at midnight Thursday.

Many shoppers took advantage of the earlier openings. John Dubreuil, general manager at Best Buy on Archer Road, said the store's line trailed down to Michaels by midnight.

But some waited until Friday morning for a more traditional Black Friday experience.

Diane Koenig, 63, of Fort White, made her first stop around 5 a.m. Friday to wait outside JCPenney at The Oaks Mall for its 6 a.m. opening. She and her friends have done Black Friday together for years, but she refused to shop the sales Thursday.

"Black Friday is Black Friday, not Black Thursday," she said. "Just like everything else, they take tradition and ruin it."

The mother-daughter team of Jenny and Courtney Rodgers said they also prefer keeping Black Friday on Friday — but they couldn't resist Thursday's sales.

As they sat in front of a soon-to-open JCPenney around 5:30 a.m., the pair — accompanied by Jenny's mother, Pattie Liles — had passed the 13-hour mark since leaving their Bronson home at 4 p.m. Thursday. They said the dead zone between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m., when they trudged from store to store with no enticing new doorbuster sales to target, was frustrating.

"I really hope, even if they want to continue starting (on Thanksgiving night), they'll coordinate so there's not that gap," Jenny said.

The Rodgers family didn't enjoy the lull, but it gave employees a break after madhouse openings.

Dubreuil of Best Buy said the store slowed down around 3 a.m. and that he expected another rush around 8 a.m. The hard-core shoppers who lined up for major deals such as a $180, 40-inch television cleared out within the first few hours, giving employees like Dubreuil, who arrived at 9 p.m. Thursday, a break before the more casual crowd rolled in later in the morning.

Melrose resident Cathy Oquinn wasn't a fan of the earlier openings. She and her daughter left their house at 4 a.m. and swung by Kohl's before heading over to JCPenney.

"I just think that's wrong," she said. "Let Thanksgiving be Thanksgiving, you know?"

But some shoppers didn't mind leaving home earlier than usual to shop. Homosassa resident Deedee Wilcox and her daughter Caitlin, who came home from the University of Miami law school for the holiday, napped after Thanksgiving dinner to charge up for their shopping expedition, which began at midnight Thursday at Belk. Caitlin scored Gator cowboy boots, normally about $400, at a 20 percent discount. She'll wear them Saturday to the University of Florida's football game in Tallahassee against Florida State University before they're wrapped up as her Christmas present.

"It was definitely justified," Deedee said of the purchase.

Victoria's Secret at The Oaks Mall was packed with a younger crowd than they've seen in years past, probably because of the midnight openings, Caitlin said. It was a nicer crowd, too.

They were still going strong when they left Target on Archer Road at 4 a.m.

"But we're pros," Caitlin said. "We do this every year."

Whether they took advantage of the Thursday evening openings or waited until morning for a traditional Black Friday experience, shoppers crowded around the entrance to JCPenney inside The Oaks Mall just before its 6 a.m. opening.

As the doors slid open, many whooped as they crammed into the store. Within minutes, people had crowded around an employee entrance by the kitchen items where staff speedily passed out $8 crockpots.

It didn't matter if they were traditional Friday morning shoppers or midnight bargain hunters: Everyone was snagging choice Christmas gifts at bargain prices.

Contact Morgan Watkins at 338-3104 or morgan.watkins@gvillesun.com.

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