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Local shoppers start hunt for deals earlier than ever before

Last Modified: Friday, November 23, 2012 10:37 PM

By Nichole Osinski / American Press

Black Friday is no longer just for Friday. A growing number of shoppers have decided to dodge the Thanksgiving tradition of relaxing after their Thursday meal and instead vie for a place in line at stores. This year, retailers have been drawing eager shoppers in with earlier store hours and bigger-than-ever bargains. 

Thursday evening inside Walmart, groups of people waited around cellophane-wrapped sale items that would be unveiled later that night.

“We got here at two o’clock today. We had lunch, scoped out the store; they gave us a map, so we knew exactly where we needed to be,” said Heikey Beaver. “This is our first stop — we’re looking for Xbox games and also movies.”

Electronics — in particular the 32-inch Emerson TVs — were on the top of most shoppers’ lists while a number of parents were using the earlier store hours to squeeze in extra purchases.

“We’re looking at some of the games for our kids —Xbox games and PlayStation 3,” said Melissa Passant. “We’ll probably be done about four or five this morning, then we’re going to shut it down.”

The general feeling among shoppers about how the shopping would be was mixed with hope that the earlier hours would thin out the crowds while others worried competition in places such as Best Buy would be fierce.

“We’re anticipating it will be about the same as it was last year; we have it very monitored and very secured, so we’re not anticipating any problems,” said Walmart employee Anne Lavergne. “It’ll be very positive. It’s six o’clock, and they’re already waiting in anticipation.”

With Target opening at 9 p.m. on Thursday, and Best Buy opening at midnight, shoppers had been forming lines around the buildings since that morning. Even with the long wait to get at the bargains, shoppers were making the best of the situation.

“This is the only time of the year that we ever get crazy about shopping, but it’s one of the only times that you can shop at 3 a.m., 4 a.m. and get whatever you want,” said Jalin DuRusseau. “It’s a different feel in the air seeing all the people out here. It’s just fun, and we like to do it.”

One group at Target had arrived early enough to be first in line. They were also the first in line last year and had made Black Friday shopping an annual tradition.

“We got here at quarter to one and we’re going to buy TVs — four — and a bunch of other things. There’s four of us here so we run in all directions. Usually we’re out in 10 minutes. Last year we were out in eight minutes; we’ll probably get done around seven in the morning.”

And while some people took the extra time in line to listen to music or snack, others such as Aaron Lin, took the opportunity to make new friends.

“Getting to meet the people is nice; just like a general sense of camaraderie is what I feel while waiting in line,” said Lin.

Many simply waited in the lines because it had become tradition and was an event they enjoyed.

“We’ve been here since 4 o’clock this afternoon, and we’re here just for the sheer enjoyment of it all,” said Kay Stemmann. “My sister and I do this every year, and we just continue to look for what we can buy. We’re just going to go until we can’t go anymore.”

And it wasn’t just locals taking advantage of the sales. There were shoppers from Houston, Atlanta and even Turkey. JC Penney Store Leader David Stanley said the company had undergone positive modification to benefit regulars along with these new visiting customers during the holidays.

“We’ve been real excited about the changes and improvements our company has gone through,” Stanley said. “This should be an enjoyable, fun experience, and that’s the most important thing.”

Sitting on the bed of a truck at Best Buy, Edward Risinger stayed awake with a Full Throttle energy drink and brought his dog along for company before sending her back home before it became too cold. First in line at Best Buy was Kerrel Wilson and his 14-year-old son, who were waiting for Toshiba TVs.

“I got here at three this morning,” said Wilson. “I like the atmosphere of Black Friday; everybody is happy during Black Friday because they’re getting sales.”

For the shoppers who continued their bargain hunting on Friday morning, the Prien Lake Mall — which opened at midnight — was the place to be where crowds explored the outlets as Christmas music played in the back.

“It can be a great experience to actually shop in the mall as opposed to shopping online,” said mall director of Marketing & Business Development Nikki Goss. “I think what our shoppers are looking forward to are the deals and the excitement which really kicks off the holiday season.”

Law enforcement did not report any major incidents.

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