Black Friday Bargain Hunting

Published 7:00 pm Friday, November 25, 2011

At 6 a.m. David and Billie Jo Phillipsnavigated their shopping cart through Fred’s, the sky outside justbeginning to gray.

    An early morning? No: almost the end of a long night.

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    “We started at Wal-Mart and have been going all night,” DavidPhillips said.

    Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, annually draws bigshopping crowds at early hours, but, this year, many shoppersreplaced early a.m. alarms with all-nighters.

    Wal-Mart began some of its sales 10 p.m. Thursday, with the moreanticipated electronic sales beginning at midnight.

    The Phillipses are Black Friday veterans, with about five years ofexperience.

    “We’ve got 11 grandkids,” Billie Jo Phillips said, explaining thatthe couple gets much of their Christmas shopping done on BlackFriday.

    The couple takes a more leisurely approach to their shopping,taking time to browse.

    “We’re not looking for anything specific,” David Phillips said.

    The couple walked through Fred’s with the store’s Black Friday adopen on their buggy, looking to wind down their shoppingmarathon.

    “We’ll get some sleep later today,” the Wesson couple saidlaughing.

    Sleep deprivation seemed a common symptom by 6 a.m. or so. Manyshoppers declined to be interviewed or photographed, statingvariations on “I’m too tired” or “I’ve been up all night and I lookterrible.”

    Like the Phillipses, Dorothy Humeau started her Black Friday atWal-Mart and planned to wind the night down at Fred’s.

    But unlike the veteran Phillipses, this was her rookie year.Humeau, of Bogue Chitto, said her sisters have always shopped onBlack Friday so she decided to give it a try.

    Her first time was also probably her last.

    “I don’t think I’ll do this again,” Humeau said.

    Things didn’t start off with a bang for Humeau at Wal-Mart. Shepicked out a few items, went to check out and decided the lineswere too long. She put her merchandise back and left.

    “They were so thick in Wal-Mart you couldn’t stir them with astick,” Humeau said.

    Some stores with later opening hours saw people waiting in line forthe doors to open.

    Sharen Granger, manager at Brookhaven’s Sears, said a line down thesidewalk waited for the store’s 4 a.m. opening.

    “There were two people in lawn chairs,” Granger said.

    Overall, store employees estimated the crowds, which thinned out by6 a.m., were comparable to last year.

    The biggest draw was a washer/dryer set, on sale for $469 each, a50 percent discount, according to store employees.

    Granger expected another small rush in the store about noon.

    “Our sales end at 1 (p.m.), so some people will come in toward theend to see what’s left,” Granger said.

    Two local businesses, Expectations and Macy Taylor’s, got a jump onWal-Mart’s early evening sales, opening from 8-10 p.m.Thursday.

    At least that’s what they advertised.

    “At 7:30, we had 10 people standing in line to get in so we decidedto go ahead and open up the doors,” said Angie Warren, owner ofExpectations.

    Warren’s summary of the night?

    “It was absolutely crazy,” she said.

    At one point in the evening Warren counted 20 customers standing inline at the cash register she was operating, Warren said.

    The store opened early, and closed late, with Warren not lockingthe doors until 10:30 p.m.

    “We never dreamed we would have that many people,” she said. “Wehad a huge night in sales.”

    Warren chairs the local chamber of commerce retail committee and ispleased to see local businesses benefiting from the presence ofBlack Friday shoppers.

    Warren hopes her Thursday evening crowd forecasts success for SmallBusiness Saturday, the Saturday after Black Friday where shoppersare encouraged to visit local businesses.

    Also encouraging to Warren were the number of out-of-town shoppersin her store.

    “Many people were visiting relatives for Thanksgiving and decidedto shop with us,” she said.

    This was Warren’s first year to try a Thanksgiving evening open,and is glad she did.

    “It was really, really hectic, but it was a lot of fun,” shesaid.