Following shoppers who camped out most of Thanksgiving for door-buster deals, waves of customers poured into area malls and shopping centers on Black Friday itself in pursuit of discounts.
Retailers opened earlier than ever before, on Thanksgiving evening, and offered more online deals than in previous years. Droves of shoppers in Charlotte took advantage of the opportunity, with lines hundreds and even more than a thousand long waiting for deals at Toys R Us, Sears and Walmart stores at 8 p.m., followed by Target at 9 p.m.
But at midnight, there were still thousands of people waiting outside Concord Mills’ half-dozen entrances, cheering and muscling their way in when the doors opened. Parking lots at malls and major shopping centers were about 70 percent full throughout Friday morning, and the crowds grew.
By midafternoon, Nan Gray, marketing director at Northlake Mall, said its parking lot was up to 85 percent full. She said the initial surge of shoppers for midnight openings was followed by a second wave beginning around 6:30 a.m. At SouthPark mall, the parking lot was so full by early afternoon that people were leaving their cars parked on curbs, while others circled continually for spaces.
“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 southern Mecklenburg County. The woman, who declined to give her name, said one shopper told her Friday morning that she decided to wait until Friday morning, when nearly all stores were open.
Jessica Graham, spokeswoman for Charlotte-based Belk, said sales were strong, with heavy traffic throughout the morning.
Some shoppers went the distance, hitting the midnight openings and continuing through the next morning. 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. “I’ve still got to stop at a couple stores that open this morning.”
Traffic did appear lighter in some stores. At the Target in the Metropolitan development near uptown, limited-quantity items marked “doorbusters” – including $279, 40-inch TVs and $4 DVDs – were still in stock Friday afternoon. Workers there said the store was busy at the 9 p.m. Thursday opening, but the rush tapered off by around 10:30 p.m.
Not everyone rushed out to do their shopping, however. With plentiful online deals and many retailers offering free shipping, many elected to shop from home.
Fernando Aguirre, former CEO of Charlotte-based Chiquita Brands and a prolific user of Twitter, tweeted Friday morning that he had skipped the mall.
“Just finished some Xmas shopping online,” wrote Aguirre. “Who needs (Black Friday) crowds!”