Here’s the story I’m filing about Black Friday in Whatcom County:
BELLINGHAM – The shift to more midnight openings on Black Friday turned out to be a big hit for shoppers in Whatcom County.
Long lines and packed parking lots were a common sight at the midnight hour as customers were out bargain hunting, particularly for electronics. The Bellingham Walmart was particularly busy; not only was the store’s massive parking lot filled, but so were other nearby lots, including the Michael’s parking lot on the west side of Meridian Street. The store quickly filled to capacity and by 11:30 p.m. people were in a line that went out the front entrance and around to the back side of the building.
The Bellingham Best Buy had one of its longest lines ever, winding across the shopping center nearly past Costco. At the Bellingham Target, it took 45 minutes to get everyone into the store; the line stretched around the nearby Sears store.
“It was overwhelming,” said Darvin Vest, a Bellingham resident who was participating in the early Black Friday openings with his family for the first time. They ventured into Walmart and got some of the things on the list, but missed out on others that were quickly snatched up. “It was so crowded inside; fresh air was very much needed for me.”
Other first-timers to the early-morning Black Friday experience put in quite a bit of planning to ensure they got what they wanted. A line at the Best Buy store started forming on Tuesday, with the first groups bringing tents and plenty of warm clothing, blankets and sleeping bags. Many were there that early for one particular doorbuster deal — a 42-inch Sharp high-definition television selling for under $200.
While spending more than 48 hours outside the Best Buy’s front door dealing with the wind and rain, the first group of shoppers formed a strong bond, with several of them planning to meet again for dinner, said Susan Chalkids of Chilliwack, B.C.
Showing up that early didn’t go unnoticed by the staff, either, which gave the first group some Best Buy hats and scarves and assisted them throughout the experience, said Bryan Robinson of Bellingham.
“They were totally helpful, letting us into the store (to use the rest room) and even said good-bye to us every time,” Robinson said.
The Best Buy store was expecting a line to form, but maybe not as early as Tuesday, said Darren Pobran, general manager of the store. By Thurs-day evening, the store gave a screening of a Harry Potter movie shown on the side of a truck and employees were handing out snacks.
“It has generally gone very well,” Pobran said about an hour before the midnight opening. “The people in line have been well-behaved; they’ve done a great job policing themselves.”
Bellis Fair started a midnight opening last year, but only to accommodate a few stores. This year about half of the stores inside the mall partici-pated in the midnight opening, including major tenants like Kohl’s, Macy’s and Target. By 12:30 a.m., much of the mall parking lots were full, including the overflow lots near West Bakerview Road.
Target appeared to attract the most attention at first, with employees and security keeping it organized by letting about 50 people in at a time dur-ing most of the first hour to prevent a stampede. The first 10 or so customers that exited the store did so with large televisions that were on sale.
Inside the mall, the activity was similar to a busy Saturday afternoon during the holiday season. Many were milling around with coffee in hand, peering into stores not yet open or standing in line at ones that were. GameStop, which has a small space in the Kohl’s wing, regularly had people out in the mall corridor, waiting to get in during the first hour.
While even busier than usual, many participating in Black Friday seemed to be in good spirits, even before the doors opened.
“It’s been cold, but fun. I’ve met a lot of people out here,” said Kara Braaksma of Abbotsford, B.C., one of the shoppers who stood outside Best Buy since Tuesday.
Was it fun enough to do again?
“I don’t think I would ever do it again,” Braaksma said with a laugh. “It was fun, but standing out here does get boring.”