Get ready, get set, shop!
The real Black Friday shopping spree is under way, with all the stores open today across the Charlotte region -- after many major stores broke down the barrier between Thanksgiving and Black Friday, opening their doors Thursday evening.
The discount rush was in full swing by 8 p.m. Thursday.
Some employees at malls and major stores that opened late Thursday night reported heavy shopping volume.
Then the second wave got under way about 5 a.m. Friday.
While the earlier start of the shopping blitz on Thanksgiving evening attracted many gift-buyers, large numbers of shoppers opted for the traditional Friday morning visits to stores in search of bargains. Parking lots at malls and major shopping centers have been about 70 percent full throughout Friday morning.
There was a lull for a few hours during the night, but it started getting busy again around 5 a.m., said a female employee at the Target store in the Blakeney shopping center, in southeast Mecklenburg County. The woman, declining to give her name, said one shopper told her Friday morning that she decided to wait for Friday morning, when nearly all stores were open.
As of late Friday morning, there were no reports of fights or any other problems among people in the long lines at stores.
Nan Gray, marketing director at Northlake Mall, told WCNC-TV, the Observers news partner, about 6:30 a.m. that shopping volume had picked up again.
We had a lot of people here late last night, when some of the stores opened, Gray said. Now were watching the second wave come in.
Some shoppers weaved together the old and the new. Mark Smith, of Charlotte, said he started a short time after midnight, shopping at Concord Mills and then stopping at a few stores in the University City area. By 5:45 a.m., he was at the IHOP restaurant on East Independence Boulevard in Matthews.
This is a break, Smith said. Ive still go to stop at a couple stores that open this morning.
Retailers trying to drum up excitement and competing with online merchants and each other opened earlier than ever, with Wal-Mart, Sears and Toys R Us starting their deals at 8 p.m. Target followed at 9 p.m., and Belk, Macys, Best Buy and dozens of other mall retailers planned to follow at midnight.
Some of the shoppers in line Thursday evening said they regretted being out so early, but that didnt stop them from turning out to spend. The deals, on everything from televisions and tablet computers to socks and baby wipes, were too compelling.
At 5:30 p.m at the Target in midtowns Metropolitan center, the first two people in line ate mashed potatoes, gravy and ham off styrofoam plates while seated on camping chairs, in advance of the stores 9 p.m opening. At the Best Buy across the street, a man waiting in line said his wife would serve him dinner after he got home following the stores midnight opening.
Kmart was the first to open, at 6 a.m., followed much later in the day by Wal-Mart and Toys R Us at 8 p.m. By 7 p.m., a line of hundreds snaked around to the back of the Toys R Us in Pineville, as people waited for the chance to buy discounted toys such as a $29.99 Cars 2 remote control car set.
At other big-box stores, most people who showed up early enough to camp out some overnight were there for the electronics. When people near the front of any line were asked what they were there for, the answer was almost always, The TV. Whether it was a 40-inch Toshiba for $179 at Best Buy, a 50-inch Westinghouse for $349 at Target, or a 32-inch Emerson for $148 at Wal-Mart, flatscreen TVs were clearly a major hit with early shoppers.
For Ernesto Rodriguez, of Charlotte, this was a year he would not be denied his doorbuster TV. I tried to get the cheap TV last year, but I just got the small TV, said Rodriguez, in front of the Metropolitan Best Buy. He got in line at 11 a.m., one of the earliest at that location, so the store wouldnt run out before he got in to shop. This year, Ill be sure.
Some retailers, such as Kmart, Wal-Mart and Sears, are trying to create excitement that lasts into early Friday, when Black Friday shopping used to peak. Theyre offering waves of different doorbusters which start as early as 4 a.m. Friday. Only a few retailers have stuck with traditional early Friday morning openings, such as J.C. Penney, which opens its doors at 6 a.m.
Total holiday sales are expected to increase 4.1 percent this year, according to the National Retail Federation. Some of that increase is from the presence of an extra week between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year.
Black Friday sales increased 6.6 percent last year, to $11.4 billion, according to ShopperTrak, a firm that tracks retailers sales. The day was the single busiest shopping day of the year, a position Black Friday is expected to occupy again this year.
Consumer confidence was at a five-year high in November, but the monthly survey also revealed many shoppers are less optimistic about the future. Experts say the dimmer outlook is likely due to the still-unresolved situation over the nations budget, with the so-called fiscal cliff that will raise taxes and cut spending in January unless Congress acts.
By 9 p.m., there were more than 1,000 people lined up in front of the Target at the Piper Glen shopping center, in a line that curved through the parking lot and past a dozen other stores. Some who dropped by late were surprised how many others were shopping on Thanksgiving evening, and turned away when they saw how long the line was.
One elderly couple who declined to give their name said they had just come from a nearby Wal-Mart, but left when they saw how long the checkout lines were. They turned away from Target too, when they realized theyd have to wait at the tail end of a line that stretched hundreds of yards from the front door. Its too much! the man yelled.
Portillo: 704-358-5041; on Twitter @ESPortillo
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