Strategy for getting a head start on Thanksgiving Day shopping for Kayla Bracey consisted of using her truck and her cell phone at 3 a.m. Thursday.
“I slept in my truck and set my alarm for every hour so I could pop my head up and see if anybody was in line yet,” said the Myrtle Beach woman five hours before the store opened at 8 p.m. Bracey was first in line at Target in Myrtle Beach, and said the crowd started gathering at about 1 p.m. She was in line to buy three TVs for her new business in North Myrtle Beach called Hearing By Design. Bracey echoed others along the Grand Strand Thursday who weren’t all too pleased to trade turkey and peas for laptops and TVs.
“With it being on Thanksgiving Day today, I didn’t know what time to actually be out here because I wanted to be first out here,” she said. “I am actually missing Thanksgiving with my family in Columbia to be here this year. I am missing that, but they’re going to come up on Friday. We tried to work it out because my family knows I’m trying to watch what I’m spending with the new business, so they were OK with it.”
Lines formed around many retailers along the Grand Strand as big box stores like J.C. Penney, Kohls, Target, Wal-Mart, and Sears opened at 8 p.m. Thursday. Retailers stepped up the efforts for the almighty dollar this year by adding Thursday to the already frantic Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday sales that are synonymous with Thanksgiving weekend.
For the most part, shoppers weren’t too happy to bear the 40-degree weather and skip time with their families to partake in Thursday’s shopping spree, which turned the usually excited Black Friday shoppers into blah Friday non-customers.
Emmalee LaPorte drove all the way from Johnsonville, S.C. to be the first in line at Toys ‘R’ Us early Thursday afternoon to get a LeapPad 2, a light saber and some Legos for her 4-year-old son.
“Unfortunately I have to miss Thanksgiving with my family, but my son is with my family right now. He thinks I’m at work,” LaPorte said as she hopped around to keep warm. “It does suck that they are opening earlier than they used to. I have always gone Black Friday shopping, but being open at 5 [p.m.] kind of makes it hard to not be with family.
“I’m a single mom, so you have to make sacrifices in order to make memorable holidays, I guess. It’s not as fun as it normally is. Normally I have my mom with me or friends. It’s not the same as it normally is, so I think this will be the last early Black Friday that I will be doing.”
Cyndi Mathis was in Target’s line with Bracey to help get and carry the 40-inch TVs for $199 they were looking for, and the $229 50-inch TV, as well. This was Mathis’ first Thanksgiving weekend shopping experience and only did it because she loves her friend.
“That’s the only reason I would ever do this,” Mathis said. “I don’t do Black Friday, and actually I don’t ever say never about anything, but I would say never about this. It won’t happen again. This is the one and only.”
Myrtle Beach resident Zoltan Vider was also in line at Target for a 50-inch TV, a new headset and some video games. He opted this to be his first Thanksgiving weekend shopping experience because of the “normal” timeframe as opposed to the usual early-morning Black Friday deals.
“I don’t think it’s really a good idea just because Thursday Thanksgiving is time for family and Friday is Black Friday and not Black Thursday,” Vider said. “Ya, I’m out here supporting it, I guess, but I still don’t agree with it.”
Zoe Newkirk, of Ocean Springs, Miss., said she was visiting her husband’s family for Thanksgiving and headed to Toys R Us after the meal to get a LeapPad 2 for her 3-year-old daughter.
“I never miss a Black Friday. I don’t care what state I’m in,” she said, adding she wasn’t a fan of the Thanksgiving sales push. “I really don’t like that they do them on Thursday. I wish that they would have stuck with the original, but I guess corporate greed makes them get stuff going.”
Newkirk said it’s basic economics as the reason why she had to head out of the house.
“In this economy, you have to get out and try and get the best sales,” she said. “Sometimes you have to be crazy.”
Crazy is actually the word J.D. Dean of Myrtle Beach doesn’t like being called. Dean, along with friend Richard Worcester camped outside of Best Buy in Myrtle Beach since 5 a.m. Tuesday. It’s an eight-year tradition the shopping buddies have continued to this year, despite the harassment the two receive.
“People pointing, laughing, calling me crazy, and I always got to go ‘I don’t like that term. I prefer the term enthusiastic,’” Dean said, who was at the head of the line for laptops, TVs, video games and iPad sales.
He said he’s had a chance to meet a lot of new Best Buy employees during his three-day stay outside the store, and enjoys the effort Best Buy puts into the organized shopping effort.
“They uphold organization to the maximum. It’s not like [other big box stores] where you have to worry about getting trampled or stabbed or even shot,” Dean said. “They come out... and they hand out tickets and once you get that ticket, you’re guaranteed to get that item. You walk in, you bring the ticket to the counter, you pick your stuff up and you’re out.”
Worcester looked at the brighter side of the Thanksgiving sale, and said he looked forward to sleeping in a warm bed with his wife.
“It’s kind of nice to get home and get to bed before midnight or 2 o’clock in the morning,” Worcester said. “I was perfectly happy when it was actually at 6 o’clock Friday morning. Everybody’s trying to get a jump on sales and so it kind of throws a damper on some people’s Thanksgiving. But, regardless if it was Friday or Thursday or Wednesday morning, I’m usually here on Tuesday.”
In fact, Black Friday shopping is how Worcester and Dean met. The two would compete to be the first in line until they mutually agreed to be tied for first each year. They now keep in touch a couple times a year, which is planned that way, Dean joked.
“That’s why we don’t talk to each other the whole year,” he said.
Contact JASON M. RODRIGUEZ at 626-0301 or follow him at Twitter.com/TSN_jrodriguez.