Long wait in line pays off for shoppers seeking Black Friday deals

| Thursday, Nov. 28, 2013, 8:50 a.m.

Turkey and stuffing weren't the only items on the menu on Thursday as shoppers across Western Pennsylvania and the country added standing in line and deal-hunting to their Thanksgiving traditions.

Retailers again this year pushed up the start of Black Friday in an attempt to lure discount-hungry shoppers. And the public responded.

People queued up at the Kmart in Peters before that discount chain's official 6 a.m. opening.

Dozens of parents finished the family feast early to wait in line for the 5 p.m. opening of Toys R Us in Ross.

The hardiest of shoppers started camping out in front of Best Buy at Pittsburgh Mills in Frazer on Wednesday morning to be among the first in line for the electronics store's 6 p.m. “door buster” sale.

“I'm just getting some stuff for cheap. You can't beat getting stuff half off,” said James Rose of Templeton, who had been in front of Best Buy since 11 a.m. Wednesday.

Other major retailers opening on Thursday included J.C. Penney, Kohl's, Macy's, Sears, Staples and Target.

The National Retail Federation expects sales nationwide to rise 3.9 percent to $602.1 billion during the last two months of this year compared with last year. The increase occurs as the dynamic of the shopping season changes.

Black Friday had been the official start, kicking off a monthlong frenzy in which many retailers expect to bring in up to 40 percent of their annual revenue.

In the past few years, however, retailers pushed opening times into Thanksgiving night in a sort of retail arms race. As they did so, they took a bite out of Black Friday sales, which last year dropped 1.8 percent to $11.2 billion, though it still was the biggest shopping day of the year.

Thursday sales benefited, totaling $810 million last year, an increase of 55 percent as more stores opened on the holiday, according to Chicago research firm ShopperTrak.

“Black Friday is now Gray Friday,” said Craig Johnson, president of Customer Growth Partners in Connecticut, a retail consultancy.

An estimated 15 percent of American adults planned to add shopping to their Thanksgiving activities, according to Pittsburgh online polling firm CivicScience. By comparison, a quarter of adults will shop on Black Friday, CivicScience found.

Thursday started early for Nicole Doss, 32, and Terry Bell, 38, both of Canonsburg, who were the second and third people in line for Kmart's opening in Peters. Each was there to land a 7-inch Android tablet the store was selling for $39.

A couple of hours later, the tablets were gone.

Michael Duche, 33, and his girlfriend, Peggy Reese, 30, both of Ross, started their shopping by arriving at Toys R Us in Ross about 3 p.m. — two hours before the doors opened or a line had formed.

“We make sure we get what we want. We get in, and we get out,” Duche said.

“It's actually better for us because it's not so late at night,” Reese said. “And we'll be home in time for the Steelers game.”

Moments before the store's opening, Toys R Us employees exchanged hugs and turned on the checkout aisle lights.

“It's the calm before the storm,” one worker said.

When the doors opened, customers calmly walked in and grabbed carts.

Before Best Buy in Ross opened at 6 p.m., store manager Aaron Sensabaugh gathered his employees for a sort of pep talk. Some sipped Red Bulls and cans of Mountain Dew, preparing for what awaited them. The line forming outside, about 150 people, was smaller than past Black Friday hordes, but Sensabaugh told his workers to expect consistent traffic all night and to be patient with customers.

Outside, Missy Chretien, 33, of Avalon and Tracy Kelly, 42, of Bellevue had hopped in line about 4:30 p.m.

“It's like a tradition,” Chretien said of Black Friday shopping, even if it happens on Thanksgiving.

While shoppers lined up outside stores and packed aisles in the suburbs, traffic at the Downtown Macy's was thin but convenient for some.

Harrison Lauer of Fox Chapel and his family were Downtown for Thanksgiving dinner and needed some last-minute gifts for his son Nick, who turns 12 on Friday. Lauer, his other son Adam, 10, and daughter Jeanney, 13, parked, hopped out and quickly grabbed a few gifts.

“It was perfect,” Lauer said.

A few shoppers huddled at an entrance to J.C. Penney in Westmoreland Mall in Hempfield just before the doors opened at 8 p.m.

Sharon Smalich, 53, of Turkeytown was there to find jeans for her 18-year-old daughter. She said she prefers the shorter lines and evening hours.

“I'm not a morning person,” she said.

The Associated Press and Trib Total Media staff writers Stacey Federoff, Brian Bowling, Brian Rittmeyer and Aaron Aupperlee contributed to this report. Alex Nixon is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7928 or anixon@tribweb.com.

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