Black Friday kicks off holiday shopping season

Monday, December 18, 2006

Forget Thanksgiving. Instead of spending the holiday with family, friends and a massive holiday feast, Sean Ivory opted to spend 13 chilly overnight hours in a lawn chair outside the front doors of Best Buy.

"I know it sounds crazy, but a bargain's a bargain," said Ivory, who was first in line at the Cape Girardeau retailer after waiting in line since 4 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day. "It was cold, but me and some friends talked and I read one of my college books -- my income tax accounting textbook. Dr. Varnon would be proud."

Ivory was one of more than 1,000 shoppers standing in a long line at Best Buy that snaked its way from the front doors across the nearby Logan's Roadhouse parking lot and back again. In fact, thousands of Southeast Missouri shoppers ignored the cold temperatures, stampeding shopping centers and malls on Black Friday, the day that retailers are said to turn profitable, or go into the black.

Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, marks one of the year's busiest days for retailers and the official start of the holiday shopping season. It used to be the year's busiest shopping day, but people looking for last-minute gifts have transferred that honor to the Saturday before Christmas. Still, the Thanksgiving weekend accounts for up to 10 percent of holiday sales.

The National Retail Federation estimates that holiday sales will rise 5 percent this year to $457.4 billion. The federation's holiday sales forecast is based on an economic model using indicators like housing data, unemployment and previous monthly retail sales reports and includes industry sales from November and December.

"Retailers went all out this year with exciting promotions and big sales to bring in shoppers," said NRF president and CEO Tracy Mullin. "Many stores offered substantial savings on big-ticket items for consumers, and it seems that, for many shoppers, the deals were simply too good to pass up."

At Best Buy, demand was brisk for computers, digital cameras and LCD display televisions, including two models on sale for $130 and $480, respectively. People swarmed over bins of $5 DVDs.

At Macy's in West Park Mall, in its first Black Friday since it converted from Famous Barr last year, early shoppers were treated to deals such as a five-piece luggage set for $49.99 and a one-carat diamond circle pendant for less than $100.

A line at Toys "R" Us extended well into the parking lot when that store opened at 5 a.m.

Jill Noel of Jackson, sporting a shirt that read "Bargain Bunny," showed up shortly after it opened to buy an E-Z Bake oven, Hot Wheels race cars, Bratz dolls and other toys for her children, Jason and Lindsey.

"I live for this," Noel said of her Black Friday shopping tradition. "It's really the only time I do my Christmas shopping. But I have to say, I thought the sales this year stunk. There really wasn't all that much."

At J.C. Penney at West Park Mall, the line from the inside entrance stretched down one mall wing as shoppers waited for sales -- and a free Disney snow globe, a mainstay that the store has given away for the past several years.

Store manager Sarah Grigaitis said more than 2,400 globes had been given away that day. And while Black Friday may not be the busiest day of the year nationally, Grigaitis said it is "absolutely" their busiest day of the year.

"We do double the business of a normal Saturday," she said. "It's more than that. Maybe twice, plus."

Normally at J.C. Penney, the peak hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. On Black Friday, the peak is from 5 a.m. to noon.

"This craziness changes all the rules," she said, laughing.

Some come for the sales. But others see it as a fun time to get up early and spend time with family. Three generations of women out in the stores was not an uncommon site. For example, June Brown, her daughter, Robin Pinkerton, and her granddaughter, 13-year-old Bailey Pinkerton -- all of Jackson -- hit the stores before dawn Friday.

"The early bird doesn't just get the worm," Brown said. "They get the best deals, too."

Not that anyone had to force Bailey.

"I like to do it," she said as her mother bought a watch at J.C. Penney for Bailey's brother. "It's fun."

But her mother may have had some insight to the real reason.

"Of course, she got a lot of PlayStation games," Robin Pinkerton said.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: