Shoppers in stores early for holiday deals, bargains
By Catharin Shepard, Matthew Whittle, Steve Herring and Phyllis Moore
Published in News on November 26, 2010 1:46 PM
Brandi Schoolcraft waits at one of the checkout counters with her arms full of Christmas gifts during Black Friday sales at JCPenney. By 4 a.m. the store was packed with customers.
Target store manager James Payton calls on his radio for an associate to refill an endcap in the store during Black Friday.
Black Friday bargain hunters swarmed Wayne County stores before dawn this morning for one of the busiest shopping days of the year, braving long waits to take advantage of the best deals on toys, electronics and other gifts.
More than 800 people lined up outside Target in Goldsboro, some arriving as early as 9 p.m. Thanksgiving day -- hours before manager James Payton came to work at midnight to prepare for the 4 a.m. opening.
Shoppers pulling into the lot at 3:30 a.m. were too late to find a parking spot and instead parked on the grass along the road, only to then stand in a line that wrapped around the side of the building and beyond.
Denise Jacobs drove in from Clinton and waited for hours for a chance to snag a deal on a DVD set of a favorite television series. Although no stranger to Black Friday mania, this was the earliest she had ever come out to the sales. Even so, she still ended up near the back of the line.
"I didn't expect this," she said, looking around at the crowd. "I would have waited."
When employees unlocked the doors, it took nearly 15 minutes for the line of customers to make it inside the store. By the time Melanie Harper and her mother reached the door, nearly all of the store's shopping carts were already handed out to customers.
The women were shopping for Christmas presents for kids in the family. Barbie dolls, Mighty Beanz and Nintendo DS video games were at the top of their list this year, they said.
"I'm usually out every Black Friday," Mrs. Harper said. "We've already hit Walmart, we were at Walmart at 11:30 last night."
Connie Kelly of Calypso was accompanied by her niece, Erin Brown. The duo had strategized the night before and had an ace up their sleeves -- they already had someone on the inside.
"Her husband, we put him out and went to other stores. He stood in line," Ms. Kelly said.
The couple had their hearts set on the discounted 40-inch flat panel televisions, on sale for under $300, Mrs. Brown said.
The "doorbuster" televisions were one of the most sought after Black Friday items, Payton said. The 40-inch television for $298 and the 46-inch TV on sale for $449 were the quickest-selling electronic items, he added.
It's probably "a little too soon to tell" what the season's toy fads will be, the manager said, but Toy Story and Disney Princesses were expected to sell quickly.
As usual, customer turnout at the store did not disappoint.
"It's been great, we were wrapped around the building," Payton said. "I got here at midnight, there were already people in line."
Even the security guards were impressed by the orderly crowd.
"Everybody's really been very nice and well-behaved," said Katie Blizzard, in her fourth year working Black Friday at the store. "With probably 800 or 900 people out here, it went very well, surprisingly."
Doors at many of the stores at Berkeley Mall also opened at 4 a.m.
JCPenney customers got a little jump on their shopping.
"We let people in around quarter to 4," said Nita Baldwin, men's department supervisor.
One of the big sellers at the outset, she said, was luggage.
"And the other thing has been pea coats for both men and women, and leather coats have been really hot," she said. "Jewelry, too. We have a great jewelry sale going on this morning."
Ms. Baldwin said if she had to predict, she'd say Black Friday had been a good one for the store.
"The first hour we knocked them dead," she said. "I was really surprised."
Customer Phyllis Facello of West Virginia was in town visiting family. Her intent for hitting the sales was "mostly gifts," she said.
"She's got six great-grandkids to buy for," said her daughter, Nancy Lilly of Goldsboro, there stocking up for her own two children. "I couldn't find the Leapster, so I will have to keep looking. I'm mostly looking for toys for the kids."
"I got a Tom-Tom, but my husband says we don't go anywhere," Mrs. Facello said with a laugh.
Deborah Holland also fared well on her quest to find a Tom-Tom GPS system.
"Got it," she said, admitting she hadn't been to bed yet. "We were at the Walmart in Rosewood at 1:30. It was open, we just waited. It wasn't so bad."
At the Belk entrance, Joanne Pate of Mount Olive rummaged through a display of pocketbooks, sales flyer in hand.
"Usually we forget the cents-off coupons and leave them at home," she said.
Ms. Pate and her daughter had already divided up to their territory, she said.
"She's going to make the circle this way and I will be here awhile and then I'll make the circle the other way," she explained. "We're going to wind up in Raleigh and shop some there."
Between the jewelry and shoe departments, Tracie Holden of Goldsboro was hitting her stride.
"I haven't been to sleep," she said. "I'm looking for gifts and now it's getting cold so I'm looking for coats. This is my second place. I stayed in line from maybe 1:30 up until 5."
The whole concept of crack- of-dawn shopping may have been new to Ms. Holden, but she said she appreciated the bargains, which included something for herself -- a GPS devise.
She also had a little help maintaining her energy.
"I already had my cappuccino," she said.
Electronics remain a big draw on a day like this, and at Sears that was no exception.
James Lapierre, sales lead in the electronics department, said he had witnessed record crowds there this morning.
"The big seller we had was a 40-inch TV going for under $400, normally it's $750," he said. "A lot of people are going for the E-readers and of course cameras and camcorders.
"We sold out of most of the TVs by five o'clock, and some of the small stuff, GPS (devices) and cameras, by the end of the day we'll probably run out."
His staff was also helping customers with online orders for items like game systems and computers.
Most of the customers were there to buy gifts rather than personal shopping, Lapierre said.
"We're prompted by the register to ask if it's a gift item," he said. "I would say about 90 percent of the time it's for Christmas items."
For many shoppers this year, the mild weather was something to be especially thankful for -- like Jesse Pittard, who began sitting in line at Staples at 12:45 a.m. Hoping for a laptop, he said the wait hadn't been too bad.
"I slept a little bit. The weather was nice," he said.
He also said he was hoping to find a fax machine.
"It's fun. My daughter (Holly) and I start planning for this a few days in advance," he said. "She just turned 16, so she's got her driver's license now. She should be at JCPenney. We split up this time. This is the first time we've split up."
Pittard said they'd probably continue shopping after meeting up later in the morning, "depending on how long we stay awake."
But at the end of the day, he said he hopes to be done with the bulk of his Christmas shopping.
"I'm going to get done today, and then I'll get the rest online," he said.
Among the most popular items at Staples were laptops, memory cards, burnable DVDs and terabyte hard drives.
For Bob and Stacy Miller, the hard drive and the DVDs were the goals.
"He's my pack mule," Mrs. Miller said, saying the plan was to do a little more shopping and then go home.
Her husband took exception to that, saying, "You drag me out here, you're going to feed me breakfast."
For Alan and Rhonda Jones, in town from China Grove visiting relatives, it was the MP3 players -- and a fun outing to themselves -- that were the main draw.
"We've been standing on this wall every year for the last five or six years," Mrs. Jones said. "He's a techie, so there's always something he's been wanting."
After the "chaos" dies down a bit, they'll likely venture over to Walmart, she said.
But ultimately, she said, it's all about having fun.
"There's no hardship in getting up this early," Jones said. "The kids are at their mother-in-law's, so we'll get to go have a nice breakfast together later. Quality time with the grandparents is the way we see it."
Over at Big Lots, siblings Marsha Johnson and Linda Johnson were in line at 5 a.m. with mother Mary Ormond.
"We look online to see if we can get things without having to stand in line," Marsha said. "But this is a tradition for us. We'll shop a little, then go get breakfast, then we shop a little more."
"We do it every year," said Ellen Chase of Snow Hill, also waiting to enter Big Lots. "A lot of time there are things in particular we're looking for. We don't just get out here for the heck of it."
Gifts at Lowes were a bit more on the practical side -- shop vacs, ladders and a variety of tools, said employee Bill Showman, greeting people at the door.
"All in all, people are doing really good today, moving fast. We had 70 or 80 people in line this morning, but I didn't get trampled or stepped on. They were all in good spirits," he said.
A couple at Radio Shack said they started shopping in Durham last night at 11 p.m. and worked their way east to their hometown.
"We're on a 24-hour run here," Teli Santini said.
Another customer, Jewel Braswell, was visiting from Atlanta. Looking for a GPS, her plans included a bit more shopping before returning home and going back to bed -- but not before a stop at Sam's Club, where free breakfast was offered to members.
"This is the whole reason we came here," she said.
They weren't the only ones to take advantage, as other customers said that had been their primary motivation -- that and the TVs.
"We saw it in the sales papers," Ricky Yelverton said, his cart brimming with two TVs. "I bought one last year, and it was a good TV and this was a good deal."
He and his wife, Sheila, still had a stop or two remaining, including breakfast at Wilber's Barbecue.
"I just like being out here with the crowds. I get to see a lot of people, and you do get some deals, too. It just puts me in the Christmas spirit," she said.
By daybreak in Mount Olive, Walmart was already gearing up for round two of its shopping extravaganza.
Employees there said the store had been even more packed at midnight, when the first sales got under way, than for the 5 a.m. sale start.
"They were jumping over boxes trying to get to things," one employee said.
There may have been some confusion over the advertisement, which gave conflicting start times for big-ticket sale items like televisions.
Iris McCalop showed up for both.
"I came at 12 o'clock and I did the first sale," she said. "Then I went home for about an hour and a half then I came back for the 5 o'clock sale, but I got here about 3:30.
"I was looking for a sewing machine (at midnight). I was looking for the television that cost $198 but they had sold out. I got this desktop computer."
After a sleep break, she said she would likely spend time setting up the computer.
"This is going to be it because it was hard," she said. "It (midnight crowd) was the worse I had ever seen. There about a thousand people in here. There were people everywhere. You couldn't hardly walk.
"It was a little better (at 3 a.m.) but it started to get crowded again as it got closer to 5 o'clock. I think this is it (for shopping)."
Nickie Brock said he arrived at the store around 4:30.
"When the sale started at 5, I had what I needed in my hands by 5:15," he said. "They only had like 45 of them and I was number 44, so it worked out good. It was a hot item. I have already carried it to the truck and now I am just walking around looking, killing time. I am off. I left the rest of my family home in the beds. This is my first time out this time of the morning (shopping).
"I will probably give my crowd time to get up then I will swing back by McDonald's and get breakfast and maybe hang some Christmas lights or something like that and just hang around home."
Deborah Williams of Dudley shopped with her husband and nephew.
"We got up kind of late," she said. "We had planned to get up at 3, but got up at 5. We are looking for little appliances for Christmas gifts to give away this year. I did it (early) shopping last year. I think it is a bigger crowd here than last year.
"I am going to go home, get me a bath, get me something to eat and go to sleep and rest the whole weekend until it is time to go back to work on Monday."