Originally created 11/30/02

To retailers, it's like Christmas morning



Rosalba Edwards did what all Christmas shoppers dream of - doing all her shopping, start to finish, in one day.

Mrs. Edwards hit all her favorite stores Friday morning after the early-bird rush and was finished by 2:30 p.m.

"I wait until everybody is already in so I can get through with my two kids," she said as she stood in line with her 5-year-old daughter and infant son at Circuit City, waiting to buy the final item on her list.

The holiday shopping season kicked off Friday, with a barrage of after-Thanksgiving sales and scurrying shoppers.

"Based on the first eight hours of the official holiday shopping season, this year is going to be pretty strong," said Patrick Clifford, the manager of the Wal-Mart Supercenter in Evans. "Despite all the gloom and doom of the economy, nobody puts off Christmas."

Getting out of bed before dawn was worth it to Kathy Buffington and Tammy Reese, both of Thomson, who arrived at the Wal-Mart Supercenter in Thomson at 6:15 a.m.

"There were so many people you could not even get a buggy," Mrs. Buffington said. "You had to stop people in the parking lot and ask for their buggy."

Their early morning paid off, she said. Mrs. Buffington bought a five-disc CD changer and a DVD player/VCR combo.

Larry and Pattee Bagby left their home in Grovetown at 6 a.m. Friday in hopes of getting a head start on their fellow consumers.

"We're going to get all of our Christmas shopping done today," Mr. Bagby said. "I don't want to have to worry about any more after today."

Mrs. Bagby says her husband is a first-time post-Thanksgiving Day shopper and has been pleasantly surprised at how fast they were able to get things done.

"The crowds haven't really been that bad," she said. "Except for Toys 'R' Us - it was a madhouse over there - we've been able to get from place to place without having to wait in line for half an hour."

Circuit City, on Robert C. Daniel Jr. Parkway, opened at 7 a.m. to a line of shoppers that wrapped around to the building's back parking lot, sales counselor Thomas Gregg said. Even after the initial rush, the shopping pace had not slowed much after lunch, he said.

"People were actually running in," said Ryan Oltman, a Sprint PCS sales associate in the store.

Radio Shack in West Town Shopping Center was not scheduled to open until 7 a.m., but the manager turned on the lights and opened at 6:15 a.m. because customers were already waiting outside, said sales associate Lee Lightfoot. All of the store's on-sale DVD players were sold out by 11 a.m., he said.

Electronics also were in short supply at the Wal-Mart Supercenter in Evans.

The Wal-Mart began its day-after-Thanksgiving sale at 6 a.m. Friday. But Mr. Clifford said the parking lot was nearly filled to capacity at 5 a.m.

By lunchtime, the store had nearly sold out of VCRs, an entire line of televisions were gone, and the store was running low on DVD players.

Mr. Clifford estimated that 4,500 customers had passed through the sliding glass doors by 2 p.m., and he was still expecting an evening rush.

In Aiken, shoppers met with the same long lines and the jostling for hot items.

"We got to Wal-mart at 6 a.m. It was a madhouse. We heard a fight broke out over 27-inch TVs that were only on sale for a certain amount of time," Brittany Ledbetter said, resting her tired feet on a bench at Aiken Mall. "My parents are in Belk now, and then we're going to Augusta."

Nearby at Kay-bee Toys, it was Rebecca West's job to keep impatient customers happy while they waited to get into the crowded store. As customers left with bagloads of toys, Ms. West would let a few more in.

"Ten of us had to be here at 4 a.m. We have one on each aisle, four at the register and two at the door," she said. "Everybody's been wanting the Gameboy Advance this year; that's been the big thing."

Some local retailers weren't very thankful on the day after Thanksgiving.

"It's been pretty slow," said Sam Johnson, the manager of The Shoe Dept., located in the same shopping center as the Evans Wal-Mart. "I think everyone must be going to the mall, because they're not coming here."

Still others are finding a happy medium between the extremes.

"The day after Thanksgiving isn't typically a good selling day for us," said Bess Kellett of Hometown Sports, located in the Merchants Village shopping center off Columbia Road. "However, we've been doing relatively well. We've been selling a lot of baseball equipment and a lot of letterman's jackets. All in all, it's been a pretty good day."

Correspondent Samantha McKevie contributed to this article.

Reach Donnie Fetter and Valerie Rowell at (706) 868-1222 or ccchron@augustachronicle.com.