The calm after the storm.
When Target’s doors opened at 9 p.m. Thursday, shoppers were lined up outside down the length of the store and up to Zaxby’s — a sight store manager Steffyn Workman never tires of seeing.
“We’ve got a good turnout so far,” Workman said as he stood watch at the store’s front door around 8:30 p.m. “People are funneling in after they leave Walmart, which is what we expected.”
At 7:57 p.m. Thursday, scores of Walmart shoppers were huddled around displays stacked with DVDs, ready to snatch the title they’ve been longing for. Three minutes later, when they got the go-ahead from the public address system, they swarmed on the displays, grabbing handfuls of movies.
Melissa Wilkinson, a young mother, held a coveted third-position spot in the Target line with her husband Luke and 1-year-old daughter.
“I dropped [Luke] off before 5 today so he could wait,” Wilkinson said. “And there were already a few people here when I dropped him off.”
The couple said they were in the market for a digital camera and toys, which Target had deals on.
The National Retail Federation predicted 147 million American shoppers would hit the stores this Black Friday weekend — Thanksgiving Day through Saturday — a slight decrease from the 152 million who planned to do so last year.
Despite economic concerns, the AAA Consumer Pulse survey showed that 76 percent of shoppers plan to spend the same amount or more money on gifts this year, but the survey noted a 10-percent decline in the number of shoppers who will shop on Black Friday, decreasing from 2011’s 51 percent to this year’s 41 percent.
An estimated $11.4 billion will be spent on holiday shopping this weekend, a 4-percent increase over last year’s projections.
Walmart had a legion of police officers and cruisers at its disposal for crowd control and security, with one of the officers saying he was ready for anything.
“I’ve been here since 5 o’clock today,” Carrollton Police Department Office Glenn Lyle said. “Hopefully things won’t get too crazy.”
Carrollton Belk store manager John Eller said in October that Carrollton shoppers were, in a general, a “very controlled” bunch.
“We appreciate that,” Eller said with a laugh.
Shoppers looking to get to Walmart by 8 p.m. Thursday had to park in alternate lots in the Carrollton Commons shopping center because the Walmart lot was full. By 8:15 p.m., the Lowe’s parking lot was almost halfway full, with customers walking from their cars to Walmart’s front doors.
One trend throughout the many stores this year, other than opening earlier than ever, is the staggering of deals. For instance, Walmart offered its first batch of bargains at 8 p.m., followed by a second group at 10 p.m. and then another at 5 a.m. Managers felt this would space out the crowds more.
“We’ve found that we have great business when we first open up, and throughout the morning, but then by noon, it’s slowed down to just a normal day,” Eller said. “So we’re trying things that will bring customers in at those off times so it’s not a big crescendo of customers, followed by a comparative lull.”
With the expansion of the Black Friday shopping period to a weekend-long event including today’s national recognition of Small Business Saturday and culminating with Cyber Monday on Nov. 26, it was likely that the shopping period will live up to its namesake, which refers to the bump in business’ profits from the red — a negative income — to the black, or a positive income.
Also helping crowd congestion is the placement of hot items, with electronics in Target being found in locations like women’s apparel. This helps take advantage of a store’s total square footage, Workman said, and maps passed out to everyone in line helps customers locate their items in less-than-normal places.
Eric Cheatwood, who found himself near about two-thirds of the way back in line at Target around 8:30 p.m. Thursday, said he was heading into the store, looking for a television.
“I’ve been doing this for years,” Cheatwood said. “So I’ve figured out a strategy. I bring someone with me who’s my buggy person. They stand back with the buggy, and I work my way in.”
But, Cheatwood said, it takes a big deal like a discounted TV to get him to wait in the sometimes lengthy lines.
“I’m not waiting in line for bedsheets,” he said.