The Christmas shopping season typically kicks off on Black Friday, but with an assortment of stores remaining open on Thanksgiving Day, in addition to a number of them opening at 8 and 9 p.m., some shoppers were getting a head start.
Trisha Songer, for instance, was up all night shopping.
Starting at 7 p.m. Thanksgiving Day, Songer visited Kmart, the Tanger Outlet Mall in Tuscola, Menard’s, Kohl’s, Sears and JoAnn Fabrics. She made a detour at 2 a.m. to drop off her daughters, ages 16 and 14, at home in Cerro Gordo and pick up her husband. By midmorning Friday, she was ready for a nap.
“You make a list of what you want and compare the ads to find out when it’s going to be on sale and what times stores open,” Songer said.
She was a little disappointed with the stores opening on Thursday evening, she said.
“Half the fun is going at midnight because it’s Black Friday,” she said. “To me, that’s still Thursday, and it wasn’t as fun.”
This year’s shopping went more smoothly than last year, however. Songer said people were friendly, most stores had plenty of staff, and lines moved quickly, with the exception of Old Navy at the Tanger mall. There, she had to stand in line for two hours.
Russ and Kathy Garver of Decatur went to Wal-Mart on Thursday evening to catch some deals and spent five hours in line.
“At 8 (p.m.), the place went nuts,” Russ Garver said. “We were in a line of 60 (people). All ours were cool people, but I guess after five hours, you kind of bond.”
Angela Martinek also started Thursday evening at Target, and she was pleased with the speed and efficiency of the staff. She also visited Wal-Mart, Kohl’s, Bergner’s, J.C. Penney, Menard’s and Walgreens, with a break in the middle for some sleep.
“Not a ton of deals for me this year,” she said. “I was looking for toy deals, and they really weren’t there for me. Didn’t stop me from finding things, though.”
Hope and Heather Hudson of Decatur, who were making their way through the crowds at J.C. Penney about 7 a.m., said they made the decision to wait until Friday morning to begin their Christmas shopping.
“We got out about 4 a.m.,” said Hope Hudson, who was holding some shirts and a pillow as she and her daughter searched through a store ad for good deals.
“We’re hoping to make it to all the stores in the mall,” said Heather Hudson, 21.
Both women said they didn’t like the idea of stores being open on Thanksgiving.
“Thanksgiving should be a family time,” Heather Hudson said.
J.C. Penney store manager Jill Woolsey said that although the store opened at 6 a.m., three hours later than it did last year, there were still plenty of shoppers on hand when the doors opened.
“I think we were busier this year at 6 a.m. than we were last year at 3 a.m.,” she said. “I don’t know if maybe that’s because other stores opened earlier last night so people had already been to those when we opened or what; but we definitely had a big rush.”
Woolsey noted that shoppers seemed to be coming in for kitchen appliances.
“We had $8 Crock-Pots, coffee pots, waffle makers, blenders and griddles that sold out within about 10 to 15 minutes,” she said, “but we have a lot of other good deals all over the store.”
There were plenty of shoppers throughout Hickory Point Mall on Friday morning, as well.
Jackie Walker, her daughter Ashley Piraino, her sister Julie Aubert and her niece Anna Peter were refueling for another round of shopping with coffee, soda, pretzels and cookies near Von Maur.
“We’ve been to our car three times already (to unload purchases),” said Walker, a Decatur-area resident. She added that the group began shopping at 4 a.m. Friday morning, with the exception of Ashley.
“I shopped from 7:30 p.m. Thursday to 1 a.m. Friday,” said Piraino. “Then I got back up around 3:30 a.m.”
Walker said the women enjoy the tradition of shopping together.
“We’ve been doing this for years,” she said. “The good deals bring us out, and it’s really about the fun of getting up and going out with no men or babies. Everyone is in a good mood.”
Amber Westerson, group marketing director for Hickory Point Mall, reported that the mall had a strong start to the holiday season.
“So far, everything has been great,” she said. “There was a strong showing at midnight, and J.C. Penney and Kohl’s had long lines. Overall, it’s been a great day.”
The parking lots of stores that opened Thursday night may not have been quite as packed 24 hours later, but they were full enough to suggest that business remained brisk, at least through early evening Friday.
Unwilling to face the crowds at Target when she was out shopping with her sister-in-law from 10 p.m. Thursday to 3 a.m. Friday, Shavonda Comage of Decatur came back late Friday afternoon to take advantage of a sale in the toy department. “There’s a lot less people now,” she said.
Kyle and Rebecca Schilawski of Decatur said they began their Black Friday shopping at 2 p.m. and planned to make just one more stop after leaving Target.
“We’re not trying to get everything done,” he said. “We mainly came out because I needed some trash bags and some other regular stuff and then figured we might as well browse around while my mom has the kids.”
Rebecca Schilawski said she went out from midnight to 4 a.m. last year on Black Friday and isn’t keen to do it again. “You stand in line for two hours just to save a few bucks,” she said.
Nick Hand, senior team leader on Target’s sales floor, started his 12-hour shift at noon Friday and said business had been steady ever since the lunch hour was over.
Josh Smith, assistant manager for Forsyth’s Best Buy, said he was excited by the crowds that were lined up outside the store well before midnight on Thursday.
“It was a good line last night,” he said at midday Friday. “It went all the way around the building to the back of the complex, but we were organized and were able to get 650 people into the store in less than 40 minutes.”
Smith reported that small and medium televisions, tablets and cellphones were what caught customers’ eyes.
He noted that Friday was a good sign for the rest of the Christmas shopping season.
“This is definitely a big weekend, and it will only get busier from this point on.”
email@example.com|421-7963; H&R Staff Writer Theresa Churchill contributed to this report.