Early-bird shoppers know Black Friday doesn’t start Friday anymore.
“If you’re here at 5 a.m. Friday, you’re late to the party. Everyone else has been shopping for eight hours already,” said Clinton Fain, 27, standing at the front of a crowd that waited for Sears to open at the Augusta Mall early Friday morning. Like many shoppers, he had been shopping through the night to make the most of Black Friday sales that started Thanksgiving night.
“We started at Walmart at 9 p.m. (Thursday),” the Augusta resident said. “It was crazy. People got angry. Stuff went fast.”
His fiancée, Brooke Gilmer, said they stood in line for two hours to check out. After Walmart, they hit Old Navy, Bed Bath & Beyond, then Sears.
“I feel like a zombie,” Fain said. “I could drop right now.”
Andrea Skywark, of Grovetown, is a seasoned Black Friday shopper, and says this is the first year she has pulled an all-nighter.
She and her friend Tara Mason started at Kohl’s, then went to Walmart on Thursday evening.
“We didn’t head out until 11 p.m.,” Mason said. “We like to eat our Thanksgiving dinner.”
Skywark agreed. “Let Thanksgiving be Thanksgiving,” she said. “I wish they’d push back the sales to 4 a.m., like they used to be.”
The two also shopped Macy’s, where they found good deals on kitchen supplies, Bath & Body Works, and the food court at the mall, which was packed with shoppers.
Nearly half of Americans – an estimated 152 million people – will shop Friday, Saturday and Sunday, according to the National Retail Federation. That’s up from 138 million last year.
“Last year, I don’t think there were as many people,” Skywark said. “There weren’t as many mall stores open this early. This year, 75 percent of the stores are open and it’s only 4 a.m.”
The pair decided to hit a few more shops before calling it a night.
“I can assure you that my butt will be in bed by 8 a.m.,” Skywark said. “You can only shop for so long.”
Because Target opened at midnight, three hours earlier than last year, the rush of the crowd simply occurred earlier, said Terrill Fuller, an executive team leader at Target at Augusta Exchange.
After 11 Thanksgiving night, the store’s line stretched next door to Christmas Tree Shops. Target allowed 30 people to enter at a time, handing out tickets for popular items, such as TVs. Other hot sellers included Wiis, PlayStations, Kindles, portable DVD players, GPS systems and toys.
By 5 a.m., the crowd had died down, and by 10 a.m., it was a typical shopping day, Fuller said.
Kmart on Washington Road opened at more traditional Black Friday hours at 5 a.m., with a crowd of about 500 waiting for the doors to open. The store also had a large crowd shopping on Thanksgiving, said store manager Michael Sosby.
“We had a bigger turnout than we expected this morning, which is always good,” Sosby said. “Most of the door busters sold the way we expected them to. The crowd was very cooperative this morning.”
Minutes before 11 a.m., the second wave of shoppers started coming through the store.
“You always get a second wind. It slows down a little bit and then your second wind hits right before lunch time,” Sosby said.
However, not at all shoppers chose to shop the night away. Some didn’t reach their first shopping destination until about 9 a.m.
“We don’t really like the crowds. We don’t like traffic. And people are rude,” said Will Tyra, of Grovetown, who was shopping at Best Buy on Walton Way Extension with his wife, Amanda, and their young daughter.
Best Buy was also the first stop for Gene and Crystal Williams, of North Augusta, who were looking for a 55-inch Samsung LED TV.
“We slept in as long as we wanted and went to Waffle House,” Crystal Williams said. “We like our bed too much to camp out on the sidewalk for days on end.”
“I think a lot of people just get caught up in the hype and the drama,” Gene Williams added.
After leaving Best Buy, Jeff DeGange, of Aiken, and his son, Curtis DeGange, made their second stop at HH Gregg at Augusta Exchange. They were shopping for a Samsung Galaxy Player 5.0 and a large screen TV.
“We let the crowds kind of die down first,” Jeff DeGange said. “We were ready to buy a 60-inch TV if they had dropped the price, but they hadn’t dropped it a bit.”