This year’s Black Friday shoppers were split into two distinct groups: those who wanted to fall into a turkey-induced slumber and those who’d rather shop instead.
Stores typically open in the wee hours of the morning on the day after Thanksgiving that’s named Black Friday because it’s traditionally when retailers turn a profit for the year. But after testing how shoppers would respond to earlier hours last year, stores such as Target and Toys R Us this year opened as early as Thanksgiving evening. That led shoppers on a mission to find the best Black Friday deals to ask a difficult question: Deal with the crowds now or later?
The Winchester Peebles location opened at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day, the first time the store has been open on the holiday. Store manager Sara Preston said staff members were surprised at the high volume of traffic, with 75 people waiting in line when the doors opened.
“We did a lot more than we were expecting, and because of that, we’re a little slower than usual. We’re steady, but not like we usually are,” Preston said.
About 300 transactions were completed in four hours Thursday, Preston said. The store re-opened at 6 a.m. today, without the usual day-after-Thanksgiving rush. Customers can expect the Thanksgiving Day sales to continue next year, Preston said.
“This was kind of a test, and since everyone had outstanding numbers, I’m sure it will continue,” Preston said.
Local Walmart officials would not comment on this year’s sales, but a press release from the corporate office touted this year as the “best ever Black Friday event,” with 10 million transactions nationwide.
Sales started at 8 p.m. Thursday evening, but customers were already swarming the Winchester location hours in advance. Although registers could not scan sale items until 8 p.m., shoppers arrived early and filled their carts. Lines were already forming, and Winchester Police officers were patrolling the store.
Gaming consoles, DVDs, toys and board games were popular items at the 8 p.m. sale.
Big ticket electronics, like TVs, digital cameras and laptop computers, went on sale at 10 p.m. Maps were distributed to customers as they entered the store so they could find specific sale items more easily.
Rather than browsing merchandise on shelves, most sale items were left on pallets on the sales floor. Although signs asked customers not to bother merchandise until sales began at 8 p.m., most pallets had been ripped open and customers were scouring the merchandise.
More items went on sale at 5 a.m. today.
Although Walmart employees around the country threatened to strike during the Black Friday event, the company’s press release stated that less than 50 employees participated in the protest.
Local businesses, like Court Street Gifts and Graham’s, will be participating in Small Business Saturday this weekend. The event was designed by American Express to encourage Americans to support independent retailers. In Winchester, stores will offer extended hours and special deals. A complete list of participating stores is available at www.americanexpress.com/us/small-business/Shop-Small.
Nationwide, sales were high as stores tested Thanksgiving Day hours in addition to traditional Black Friday hours.
Crystal Camacho, 19, and Sammy Caban, 23, got to Best Buy in the Manhattan borough of New York City at 12:30 a.m. on Black Friday with one goal in mind, a 40-inch Toshiba TV on sale for $180. They were determined, even though they both worked on Thanksgiving Day and had to work on Black Friday, she as a restaurant hostess and he as salesperson at GameStop. Five hours later, a little after 5 a.m., they walked out with the TV.
“It was crazy but well worth it,” Caban said. “We got lucky.”
Elizabeth Garcia, a sales rep from the city’s Bronx borough, decided for a later shopping start at about 3:30 a.m. at a nearby Toys R Us in New York’s Times Square. Garcia, who has three children ages 3, 5 and 7, said she specifically decided on the later time to avoid the crowds on Thanksgiving when the store opened at 8 p.m. She believes that was the best decision: Last year, Garcia almost got into a fight over a Tinker Bell couch, but this year things were much calmer.
“This year I wasn’t about to kill people,” she said.
It is unclear how many shoppers were drawn to the earlier openings versus the traditional Black Friday hours. But according to an International Council of Shopping Centers-Goldman Sachs survey of 1,000 consumers conducted this month, about 17 percent planned to shop at stores that opened on Thanksgiving, up from 16 percent last year when retailers were testing the earlier hours.