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Shoppers pack stores to find Black Friday bargains

Madison Mathews • Nov 23, 2012 at 10:01 PM

They came. They shopped. They conquered.

Black Friday drew millions of shoppers to stores across the country as the holiday shopping season kicked into high gear.

Many of this year’s deals were offered earlier than ever before as a number of large retailers — including Target, Walmart and Sears — opened their doors on Thanksgiving night.

Offering deals a few hours earlier seemed to pay off in more ways than one for shoppers and stores alike.

Although Leah Vallie and her family didn’t start shopping until about 5 a.m., they had a shopping cart filled with Black Friday loot by noon.

“It’s been a tradition for us to go out on Black Friday since we were little,” she said as she shopped with her sisters, mother and sister-in-law at The Mall at Johnson City.

In past years Vallie said her family has had to deal with the mall’s massive Black Friday crowd. Since the mall opened its doors at midnight this year, the big rush of shoppers came and went earlier than normal, which made shopping a little more enjoyable this year.

“It wasn’t that bad since they had all of the sales last night. It was a lot smaller than it usually is. We actually got a parking spot,” said Vallie’s sister, Kate.

But not everyone enjoyed the earlier shopping times this year.

Kelly Stophel, another traditional Black Friday shopper, said she thought the early sales cut into the Thanksgiving holiday.

The early sales also kept her from getting some of the doorbuster deals she used to get when stores opened their doors at 5 or 6 a.m.

“I usually like to get my little appliances like that the day after, cause they’re usually on sale,” she said.

By the time she and her children hit Walmart and the mall’s department stores, many of those deals had already been picked through.

Retailers were happy with the turnout from opening earlier than ever before, including many of the mall’s department stores.

“This Black Friday has been awesome. We started with lines at 7 o’clock to get into Sears at 8, and then the mall opened at midnight for the first time ever. We had lines at every building, every entrance. They were here and ready to shop,” said Marsha Hammond, the mall’s marketing director.

Not all department stores opened at midnight.

JCPenney didn’t open its doors until 6 a.m., giving its employees a little more time to enjoy the holiday.

That didn’t keep shoppers from lining up at the stores’ multiple entrances waiting to get their hands on this year’s deals.

“We had crowds at all three entrances waiting to get in, so we opened the doors at 6 a.m. and within 10 to 15 minutes, we were out of some of our key sale items that were very, very hot Christmas buys,” store leader Gary Childers said.

Although they missed out on the midnight rush, Childers said the store saw more people than ever before when they opened the doors at 6 a.m.

“A lot of our competitors were open at midnight, so customers were able to do some shopping, get something to eat, and then they shopped us,” he said. “So we actually saw an increase in traffic because we were the only retailer opening for business at 6 a.m.”

Target stores opened at 9 p.m. this year. The Johnson City location had lines forming to get in around 6:45 Thanksgiving night.

That trend continued until the store opened its doors.

“From there it just grew. They were eager to bust in the doors. We kind of figured a lot of people would finish their dinners and go out and get it done with, so we saw a lot of that,” said Lauren Bible, Target executive team leader. “A lot of guests were really happy because they’d be getting up at 2 a.m. to go shop and now they’re going to be done and able to go bed by 2 a.m.”

Best Buy didn’t open its doors until midnight but that didn’t stop people from lining up for the doorbuster deals as early as Wednesday afternoon.

After the early morning lull, the afternoon traffic picked up and home business group manger Tony Grice expected business to remain pretty steady until the store closed.

“So far it does look like we’ve had a little bit better traffic than we had last year. We’re definitely a lot busier at this time than we were last year. I think it definitely paid off,” he said.

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