Opening doors to shoppers on Thursday night seemed to reduce crowds and calm the usual Black Friday mayhem in Fredericksburg-area stores.
“I guess—as we [are] open for so long now—it’s not so hectic. So it’s kind of spread out, which leaves the joy” out of the holiday shopping kickoff, said Nakita Brown, store manager for Express at Spotsylvania Towne Centre. “I’m usually excited for the hecticness.”
She said Thursday and Friday were “a cakewalk compared to last year. Midnight it was like a swarm of people walking through my door, and this year it was just not the same.”
Other mall store workers agreed that the extra hours helped spread out the crowds.
“All of the shopping that happened last year from midnight to 1 happened from 9 to 1” this year, said Todd Martinsen, site manager for Build–A–Bear Workshop.
For some shoppers, the lack of crazed crowds was a bonus, but those who waited until Friday morning to shop found that many of the sale items were already gone.
Yet one shopper, Lisa Rich, who is not usually a fan of Black Friday shopping, found this year to be a good experience.
“It’s been a while since I [went Black Friday shopping] because I didn’t like how busy it would be,” Rich said. “So I would tell myself, ‘why get in all this traffic of people when I can come when it calmed down and get the same sales?’”
Rich was able to find good deals on shoes and pageant dresses for her daughter, without having to battle other shoppers.
“When I got inside [the mall] I was surprised that it was really not that many people when we actually first got here,” Rich said. “I don’t consider it overpacked where you’re bumping people.”
While the mall was relatively calm, many stores in Central Park drew big Friday crowds.
Old Navy, which offered 50 percent off of all merchandise, had lines winding around the store.
Brooke Walley, 33, of Fredericksburg, was hoping for a Thanksgiving Day deal but decided the Old Navy lines were too long. So she returned on Black Friday to similarly long lines. But she said the lines are “definitely not as bad as they were last year because stores opened on Thanksgiving.”
Walley shopped with 19-year-old friend Megan Mair.
Mair found clothes at Old Navy for a 7-year-old girl she was shopping for as a part of the Angel Tree program at her church.
“I can get more for her with the deals,” she said.
Susan Smith, 48, of Maryland, went shopping with Spotsylvania County family members at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving and then the group returned home, took naps and came back out on Black Friday. Her niece was so tired from shopping the night before, she accidentally put her pants on backwards for the Friday shopping spree.
In addition to hitting Old Navy, Smith also shopped at Best Buy, looking for Samsung Galaxy phone accessories.
Mike Setti, a spokesman for the Central Park Best Buy, said shoppers filed in steadily from the time the doors opened at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving.
Televisions, iPads, tablets and smartphones were the big items this year, Setti said.
He said the store gives out tickets for door-buster items so people know ahead of time, while they are lining up, if they will get one of the limited items.
“This works best for everyone,” he said. “It’s a very safe way for us to have Black Friday shoppers, and it prevents anyone from getting hurt.”
Farther down State Route 3, at Gander Mountain, customers also lined up for Friday deals.
Manager Jay Muse said ammunition, thermal hunting apparel, stocking stuffers such as fishing lures and cooking equipment were hot items.
The store also held a special on AR–15 assault rifles that drew in customers, he said.
For the first time, the store was open from 8 a.m. on Thanksgiving until 2 a.m. on Black Friday. The store then reopened Friday at 6 a.m. Muse said foot traffic was steady during the holiday, except when football games were on.
Jennifer Maddox and her daughter Amber shopped for clothes and Christmas presents at Gander Mountain on Friday.
“We’ve found almost everything we’re looking for,” Maddox said. “I aim to finish my Christmas shopping on Sunday. Tomorrow we’re taking a break, though, and having a late Thanksgiving dinner with my in-laws.”
Gander Mountain was the first stop for Auby Curtis and Susan Clore of Culpeper. Clore found a North Face jacket on sale, and Curtis checked out hunting gear.
They avoided stores on the holiday.
“I think it’s silly,” he said about door-buster deals on Thanksgiving.
Black Friday shoppers always bode well for Scotty Reese’s business, Scotty’s Dogs, which was set up in front of Gander Mountain on Friday.
He usually sells hot dogs, sausages and burgers in Stafford County, but has worked in front of the Spotsylvania store for the last five Black Fridays.
“I’ve sold a lot of hot dogs,” he said. “And it’s nice. I can go in and warm up sometimes.”
In downtown Fredericksburg, the Friday afternoon scene was relatively calm, but parking was scarce.
Cindy Dennis, who owns Quilts ’N Treasures toy store on Caroline Street, said business picked up Friday afternoon after people finished with Central Park door-buster deals.
“People are smiling here,” she said. “They’re happy. that’s the difference between the big-box stores today and downtown. People can enjoy being here.”
Bob Whittingham, who owns The Kitchen at Whittingham, said he was surprised by how early people were shopping downtown. His store opened at its normal time—9 a.m.—and soon thereafter, customers began streaming in.
He said Christmas décor and gift items were hot sellers Friday. But he expected Small Business Saturday to be busier.
“That’s the trend,” he said. “They go to the bigger stores on Friday and return here Saturday. I’m just pleased the weather is nice and people are coming out.”
Eric Lanehart, a Web developer living in Manhattan, stopped by Wittingham’s on Friday with his aunt Wendy Lanehart and cousin, 8-year-old King George Elementary student Ray Lanehart.
“My aunt thought I’d like it,” he said. “And I do, but I just moved to New York from California, and my apartment is small, so I don’t think I’ll be buying anything.”
Wendy Lanehart’s son Ray had his eye on a metal wallet. Lanehart bought Christmas crackers and decorations for her Stafford home.
“I’m so happy to be downtown rather than in Central Park,” she said.
Lindley Estes: 540/735-1976