11/27/09 — Bargain hunters out early for jump start on holiday shopping

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Bargain hunters out early for jump start on holiday shopping

By Catharin Shepard, Phyllis Moore and Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on November 27, 2009 1:46 PM

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Trudy Brinson, left, and mother Tonya Cloutier, both of Goldsboro, braved the packed aisles at Target this morning without a cart. The two shoppers said it was easier to navigate the crowded store without one.

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Early morning shoppers Ashley Johnson, left, and Christina Aycocke check out at Belk at Berkeley Mall this morning.

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The jammed parking lot at Target early this morning attests to the hordes of bargain hunters inside.

Hundreds of bleary-eyed shoppers braved the cold hours before dawn at Berkeley Mall this morning, lining up outside Belk, Sears and JCPenney for the 4 a.m. Black Friday opening.

Near freezing temperatures and the extra-early wake-up call didn't scare away the crowd of bargain hunters who took advantage of special "door busters" or "early bird" specials at the department stores.

The stores offered deeply discounted items for the traditionally hectic holiday sale as well as special promotional offers, such as Belk's free gift cards reserved exclusively for the earliest arrivals. Other stores also offered free gifts or special deals to entice shoppers.

Clothing for men, women and children was marked down by as much as 60 percent at the mall stores. The Pearce family was taking advantage of the deals at the mall to pick up some items for their personal use, Lee Ann Pearce said.

"Penney's has a good sale on coats," she said.

Three generations of her family headed out for the shopping trip, a long-standing tradition for them. Her mother and children were both part of the trip this year.

"We've done it before. We've been doing it since they were about 2 or 3 years old," she said, pointing to her two kids.

But 4 a.m. was the earliest they had ever gone shopping, she added.

Getting up early didn't bother veteran bargain hunters Barbara Hope and Billie Jo Pittman.

"We're used to it," Mrs. Hope said.

The two shoppers were looking for a variety of items, including toys, clothes and anything else that caught their eye. JCPenney was only their first stop of the day, with many more trips planned for later.

"To the mall (first), and we'll probably go somewhere else. It's an all-day thing," Mrs. Hope said.

Sarah Widner had already been up for hours by the time the stores opened.

"Usually I don't come this early. I woke up at 12:30 and I said, why not?" she said.

Ms. Widner said she was mostly shopping for herself, and was especially hoping to pick up a television. It wasn't a holiday deal breaker for her, however.

"If I get one, I get one. If I don't, I don't. I may get to Target or Wal-Mart," she said.

Shoppers started leaving the mall with their purchases just minutes after the early opening, walking back to cars parked in the packed lot. Stockers were busy replacing stacks of household items, such as electric griddles and cookware, that flew off the shelves only half an hour after the doors were unlocked.

Caroline Brinson and her mother, Jennifer Brinson, got up before 3 a.m. to head to the mall, but she couldn't talk her father into coming with them. They didn't have to wait very long outside the doors, but ended up in another line inside as they waited for Radio Shack to open.

"It was freezing out there. At least they have heaters in here," she said.

It was their first time venturing out early, but they hope to turn the shopping trip into an annual event, they said.

"I want to start a new tradition of doing this," Ms. Brinson said.

Adrian Wallace of Goldsboro set up camp at Kmart at 2:45 a.m. for the 6 a.m. opening. Her sights were set on two items in the sale flier -- a Nintendo DSI bundle and the laptop, she said.

She was first in line, but with a price.

"I was freezing my toes off, and my hands are frozen," she said shortly before the store's doors opened. Her cell phone battery also died at one point, forcing her to return it to the car to be charged.

She didn't have to wait long for company.

Moses Castaneda and Rodolfo Castaneda arrived at a little past 3.

"He's trying to get the TV," Moses said. "I'm here to get the 7-inch laptop and DSI bundle."

Mary Aycock of Goldsboro also braved the cold for one of those laptops, she said, while other family members took their list to Wal-Mart.

Mariam Hester, from New Jersey, came with her sister and the hope that it might be a short day of shopping, she said.

Keith Britt of Goldsboro had already dropped off his wife at Target around 3 and made his way to Kmart at 5:15, he said.

Equipped with a list for his children, he admitted there was also something in it for himself -- one of the large TVs that were on sale.

Over at Target, where lines wrapped around the building hours before the 5 a.m. opening, Susan King of Seven Springs found a shortcut.

"If you walked up to the door, you could get in a shorter line," she said.

Accompanied by her niece, Raven Beasley of Grantham, Ms. King said she didn't find everything on her list but did collect a few bargains, and some she lucked out on earlier.

"I got on the Internet yesterday morning. A lot of stuff on sale you could buy online," she said.

Raven, unfortunately, did not fare as well.

"I left my wallet at home," she said.

Deb Turnage, searching for her car in the parking lot, said it took her about 30 minutes to check out her brimming cart.

"I got everything on my list," she boasted. "Really, they have more of everything. They really had a pretty good selection."

The lines moved quickly and she was pleased with the gifts she bought for her 2-year-old granddaughter, she said.

"I'm really done. Now it's just the fun stuff, when you can find other bargains," she said.

Durell Council, from Hampton, Va., was visiting family but made the shopping trip alone.

"They were supposed to come but didn't make the early morning trip," he explained.

Target was his first choice.

"I didn't want to go to an electronics place that only had electronics," he said. "I just saw some good deals online and wanted to come here. It got kind of crowded at times, but I managed to weave my way through the crowd."

Near the front entrance, Charmin Kearney of Mount Olive and mom Polly Grady waited patiently in a long line by customer service.

"I hope it's a checkout line," Charmin said.

Most of their purchases were Christmas gifts, although Ms. Grady did treat herself to a Christmas sweater.

Wendy Dale of Princeton didn't even go to sleep last night, starting her shopping trek at midnight at the outlet stores in Smithfield.

"We kind of divided up, me and my husband, and then he went home and went to bed," she said. She continued on, arriving at Target around 4:30.

"I sat in the car for about 45 minutes, not waiting in that line," she said.

Mrs. Dale had already completed most of the shopping for her two children, ages 4 and 5.

"We do them first, then everybody else," she said around 6:20. "Now I'm just leisurely shopping. I'm actually getting ready to check out."

Making their way through the crowd with arms loaded were Tonya Cloutier and daughter, Trudy Brinson, both of Goldsboro.

"It's harder to maneuver with a cart," Ms. Brinson said. "It's just easier this way."

The duo had already been to Wal-Mart, where the crowd seemed smaller, Mrs. Cloutier said.

"They must have all the good stuff here," she said.

Christopher Hill of Warsaw worked to steady large boxes in his shopping cart as wife Tiarra approached. Their main mission was shopping for their four children, they said.

"They just want everything on TV," Mrs. Hill said.

On one of the toy aisles, Thomas Vinson was accompanied by his mother, Cindy Vinson.

"We're shopping for my little girl (age 2) and my nephew," he said.

"My grandchildren," Mrs. Vinson added.

"We have already been to Sam's and Wal-Mart, and we're about done," Vinson said.

The two had left their homes in Seven Springs around 4:30, "got what we came to get," and were winding down, he said.

For foreign-born Vlasta Rising, "Black Friday" was on the list of American "holidays" she was taught in school while growing up in Slovenia.

But she didn't learn what it meant until moving to this country with husband Adam, now stationed at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base.

"I don't think our teacher (in Slovenia) actually knew that part of it, that they (retailers) called it 'Black Friday' because it took them out of the red," said Mrs. Rising, now a Pikeville area resident.

One of hundreds packed into the Rosewood Wal-Mart this morning around 5 a.m., Mrs. Rising said she has always been intrigued by the American tradition.

"It was the day when Americans have a day off, just to go shopping for Christmas, and that just seemed like the coolest thing," she said.

She was spending her first-ever Black Friday shopping with friend and neighbor Mandy Nester, also a military wife.

They were shopping for their children -- Mrs. Nester's two, 10-year-old Anna, and George, who will turn 4 right after Christmas, and Mrs. Rising's three, Alana, 8, Althea, 6, and 3-year-old Evan.

Mrs. Nester said she was particularly happy with one purchase, sleepwear for one of her children.

"Jammies, jammies," Mrs. Nester said in a singsong voice, hoisting a pair of comfy-looking pajama bottoms from the cart.

Elsewhere, Amanda Etheridge had traveled in from Lucama to get a deal on a Nintendo DS, a portable gaming system.

The handheld item, known for its dual screen, was intended for her cousins' children who live in Bailey, Ms. Etheridge said.

She and her aunt, Lynn Taylor, make it an annual event, she said.

Others make the day a tradition, too, like Brittany Peeples, a Goldsboro resident shopping with her mother-in-law, Cynthia Peeples.

Cynthia said she waited in line for an hour just for the chance to buy a DVD player and a camera.

Despite the wait, they believed choosing the Rosewood Wal-Mart was more expedient than choosing the chain's Spence Avenue location, the women said.

"People were sleeping in their cars," at the Spence Avenue Wal-Mart, said Bhrianna Peeples, Cynthia's daughter-in-law.

"(The Spence Avenue Wal-Mart parking lot) was completely and utterly packed," Brittany said. "That's why I was really shocked when I came here. It was not nearly as busy."

But that was nothing compared to what Cynthia heard from a friend out of state.

"Even though this is wild, this is nothing compared to how crazy Florida is," she said. "She said she's at a (Florida) Wal-Mart right now, and she's like 'Gosh, I can't move.'"

Libby McLamb of Smithfield was in Rosewood trying to find an advertised computer.

"I wanted the $198 laptop," Mrs. McLamb said, looking chagrined. "They only had 14 of them, I guess, and people were in line for it last night. They went really quick."

She did find a gaming system for her grandson, Anthony, 13, who will be getting a Microsoft Corp.-made Xbox 360, she said.

And she also stumbled upon a $25 computer printer, which was exciting albeit no longer a surprise.

"It's a Christmas gift for my daughter," Mrs. McLamb said. "But she's here with me, so now she knows what she's getting."