I ventured out with hundreds of other people to see how the earlier starts of Black Friday (some stores opened at 12:01 a.m.; usually openings don’t start until 4 a.m.) went over with shoppers. Below is the story I filed, which will be posted on the main news page later this morning. A few other random thoughts not included in the article:
– The main demographic I saw in the midnight openings were people in their teens, 20s and early 30s. It seemed the gender split was about 50/50.
– Maybe it was just by chance, but I ended up talking to a lot of first-timers to the Black Friday experience. Many of them were Whatcom residents who decided this was the year they would check it out.
– With the midnight openings, it seemed like there was a lot of browsing at the mall, while the majority of Wal-Mart shoppers seemed to know exactly what they wanted got in check-out lines quickly.
– Roads were in good shape; temperatures rose just in time to turn the ice into slush.
Here’s the rest of the story….
BELLINGHAM – Despite the windy, wintry weather, quite a few shoppers have warmed up to the idea of an early start to Black Friday.
With Thanksgiving festivities still a fresh memory, hundreds of people ventured out to the Meridian and Cordata shopping centers just after midnight on Nov. 26 in search for bargains. Typically Black Friday in Whatcom County kicks off around 4 a.m., but this year several retailers in Bellis Fair and Wal-Mart opened up at 12:01 a.m. People also lined up at other stores for 3 a.m. or later openings.
The midnight crowds seemed to be in good spirits, particularly with the temperature rising above freezing for the first time in nearly a week.
“This is great; I have a long shopping list to keep me going all night,” said Sue Davenport of Blaine about the midnight openings. Davenport was waiting with about 200 people at the main doors of Bellis Fair just before midnight. While the anchor stores had 3 a.m. and 4 a.m. openings, several stores inside the mall, including Old Navy and Toys R Us, opened right after midnight.
By 12:30 a.m., it was difficult to find a parking space in the Wal-Mart parking lot. The store was offering deals on many items, while special door-buster sales began at 5 a.m. This year the store staff controlled the crowds by letting in a certain number of people at one time, then had a line form at the two main entrances. As customers inside the store exited, more would be let in. By 1 a.m., shoppers with carts lined up from the cash registers all the way to the back end of the store. Outside, even a stretch limousine with British Columbia license plates made its way through the parking area, dropping off shoppers.
To handle the mass of shoppers, Wal-Mart appeared to have a stronger presence of crowd-control workers than previous years, both inside the store and out directing cars in the parking areas.
Participating in this year’s Black Friday for the first time was an exciting experience for Ida Razi and her sister, Yalda Razi. Both are from Vancouver, B.C., and had heard colleagues at work describing what it was like, so they crossed the border and decided to make their first stop at Wal-Mart before checking out the other stores.
“It’s a perfect way to start Christmas shopping,” Ida Razi said, noting the bargain prices had brought them down to Bellingham.
For those waiting outside stores for the 3 a.m. or later openings, bundling up was important and Max Nelson was up to the task. He showed up at 9 p.m. Thanksgiving day outside the Target store with a tent and a cold-weather sleeping bag to hunker down on the concrete. This was the first time Nelson participated in the early-morning Black Friday opening; he was doing some shopping for a friend who was on-duty as a firefighter.
“I thought I’d be miserable out here, but it’s been great. I’ve met some really nice people,” Nelson said.
Nelson said he got the idea of bringing a tent after watching some YouTube videos of previous Black Friday events. After arriving he thought he might have been overprepared, but seemed happy to have the tent as the winds started kicking up around 1:30 a.m.
In front of him in line was Elizabeth Owens of Bellingham and Kuljeet Kainth of Richmond B.C. Owens and Kainth hadn’t met prior to this event and once they started talking they realized they were interested in the same television set. They began comparing notes on what they knew about the product.
“The camaraderie is just great,” Kainth said. “Everyone is really pleasant.”
This was also the first Black Friday for Owens and Kainth, who didn’t know what to expect in terms of lines so they showed up around 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day to be the first in line.
“I had heard how early people line up, and didn’t want to miss this,” Owens said. “I don’t normally watch a lot of TV, but this one is almost half price.”
Kainth and some of the other Canadian visitors said the border crossing had relatively short wait times, making it easy to get into Bellingham. The roads from B.C. into Whatcom County were also in relatively good shape, Kainth said, despite the snowfall on Thanksgiving morning.