‘Black Friday’ draws shoppers to local retailers

This year’s “Black Friday” sales Nov. 27 started drawing shoppers to some stores before the day had even begun as area retailers reported customer traffic at least equal to, and in some cases busier than, previous years.

According to Quil Ceda Village Walmart Assistant Manager Virginia Jones, their store’s sales rush began at 9 p.m. Nov. 26, creating a four-hour “Black Thursday” before midnight.

“It’s usually 2 or 3 a.m. before it gets that heavy,” Jones said.

Jones admitted that the Thanksgiving day meal and the long hours can leave both customers and store employees feeling tired, but she credited the store’s organization with keeping things running relatively smoothly.

“Expect to be sharing space with hundreds of other people,” Jones said. “Know what you want. Don’t expect a perfect experience on a day like today, but keep a positive attitude.”

Christine Holloway takes this advice to heart. For the past seven years, she and four fellow natives of Vancouver, B.C., have crossed the border the day before “Black Friday” to stay at a hotel and go shopping at the Quil Ceda Village Walmart as a team. This year, their purchases included clothes, toys, children’s bedding, a TV, a DVD player and a camera.

“We easily get twice the value of what we spend here,” Holloway said. “You need to come in groups so that you can divide and conquer. One of us goes to each section of the store, to pick up items in that area for all of us.”

For Tulalip residents Cyndi Callison and Maria Andrews, “Black Friday” was more of an endurance contest. They met Everett resident Chris Reider at Walmart and camped out in an aisle of the electronics section from 8 p.m. Nov. 26 until 5 a.m. Nov. 27, when the first of 32 discounted laptops were given out.

“We’ve watched the movie ‘Up’ three times, read magazines from the next aisle over and had meals at the in-store McDonald’s,” Callison said.

Reider reported that the first person in line for the laptops showed up at 4 p.m. Nov. 26, and the 32nd person arrived just after midnight Nov. 27.

“We’ve held each other’s places in line,” Reider said.

Arlington’s David and Darci Depner showed up at Walmart at 4 a.m. Nov. 27 and were out the doors an hour and a half later, on their way toward the Marysville Fred Meyer store, but David Depner estimated that they spent close to an hour in one of several check-out lines that extended to the back of the store. It was their first “Black Friday” at Walmart, although they’re regular “Black Friday” shoppers.

“We didn’t know where some of the stuff was at,” said David Depner, whose purchases included pajamas and gifts for his and Darci’s two daughters. “We probably should have been more prepared, by coming to the store to map it out. We don’t have a huge list. We just wanted to get all of our shopping done at once.”

Marysville Fred Meyer Home Electronics Manager Joel Delarosa and Regional Manager Lori Scheller described their store’s sales as holding steady with previous years’ “Black Fridays.” Unlike the 24-hour Walmart, Fred Meyer opened at 5 a.m. Nov. 27 to what Scheller called “organized chaos.”

“I think we have just as many customers, but they seem a little more relaxed,” Scheller said.

“For the most part they already know what they want,” said Delarosa, who cited video games and Samsung TVs as this year’s in-demand items.

Arlington resident Cheryl McGuire is a 35-year veteran of “Black Friday” shopping who was combing the toys aisles of Fred Meyer to get gifts for her three grandsons. Her day began at 2 a.m., when she finalized her shopping list before heading to her first stop at Walmart. She expected to spend about $150 by the end of the day.

“There’s a lot of planning involved,” McGuire said. “Who are you buying for, what do they want, which stores can you go to to maximize your savings, and what times should you go? You hear about people being rude, but I’ve never experienced it. I’ve had folks watch my cart for me. It’s almost always been a pleasant experience.”

Marysville resident Kari Coleman was joined by her son C.J. and daughter Kaleigh at the Fred Meyer, and explained that her kids have been eager to join their mom in “Black Friday” shopping for the past few years. They’d already stopped by the Marysville Kohl’s store and Navy Exchange, since Coleman’s husband is a sailor at Naval Station Everett.

“They’re using their own money to get gifts, so they’ve become more selective,” Kari Coleman said of her children. “Each store has potentially interesting things. We’ve gotten candles, housewares, pillows and knives here. I try not to get frustrated with the shopping rush because I want the kids to understand that it’s just stuff. It’s not what matters about Christmas.”

South on State Avenue, Judd and Black had shoppers lining up for its 8 a.m. opening as early as 5 a.m. George Mikko of St. Cloud, Minn., was looking to furnish his son’s apartment in Arlington, while Dave Totton of Camano Island thanked the store manager for bringing coffee to those in line before the doors officially opened.

“We’ve gotten to know each other,” Arlington resident Denita McLeod said of her fellow early birds in line. “Come early, but make sure you have something to read and you go to the bathroom before you come.”

Marysville Judd and Black Sales Associate David Richardson estimated that this year’s “Black Friday” pre-opening line of more than two dozen was at least double the size of last year’s.

Larger local stores aren’t the only ones who make special plans for “Black Friday.” Mary Kirkland, owner of Hilton Pharmacy on Third Street, explained that her store used to open early for “Black Friday,” until they realized that their increased traffic wasn’t hitting until about noon.

“They’re less frenzied and frantic by the time they get to us, and we get to sleep in,” Kirkland said. “We’ve had a lot of customers, but no crowds at our doors.”

Kirkland characterized sales as brisk since their Nov. 14 open house, and encouraged shoppers to return for Third Street’s Dec. 5 prelude to “Merrysville for the Holidays.”

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