BELLINGHAM Having Black Friday sales start on Thursday evening turned out to be a hit with many local consumers.
Thousands of shoppers swarmed the north section of Bellingham soon after Thanksgiving dinner in search of bargains in what appears to be the new kickoff to the holiday shopping season.
At the Bellingham Target store, more than 1,500 people were in line when the doors opened at 9 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 22. The line at the out-side Target entrance wrapped around the nearby Sears building. Target employees and security kept the opening orderly, allowing about 50 people in at a time to prevent a stampede into the store.
For some at the front of the line at Target, the early start wasnt something they were thrilled to see. Julio Rodriguez of Ferndale decided to skip Thanksgiving dinner in order to take advantage of some deals on gifts for his family. He arrived around 10 a.m. on Thursday to make sure he was near the front of the line. He would have preferred to have shopped on Friday if he knew the gifts he wanted to buy would be available.
I think its bad to cut into the traditional Thanksgiving holiday; they should stick with keeping the sales on Friday, Rodriguez said.
Others didnt mind the earlier start. Dmitri Lebedev of Bellingham, who was in line for Best Buys midnight opening, said the Thursday openings meant fewer sleepy people on the road in the early morning hours.
Walmart was also a busy place for Thursday evening shoppers. The stores first event was at 8 p.m., and by 9:30 p.m. not only was the Walmart parking lot full, but several other lots nearby, including lots meant for customers at PetSmart and Michaels stores.
The midnight openings were also popular, particularly at Best Buy and Bellis Fair. The mall opened its main doors at 11:30 p.m. and shoppers streamed in out of the drizzly rain to line up at a variety of stores. By 12:30 a.m. on Friday, the mall parking lot was nearly full.
For the most part, shoppers appeared to be in good spirits while waiting to get into the stores. Maria and David McCallum, who own the Cordata and Fairhaven Post & Parcel mail service stores, enlisted the help of family members in passing out 1,500 hand-warmers and store coupons to people standing outside waiting for the sales to start.
I would say the mood was good, said Maria McCallum, who said this was the fourth time they passed out gifts to those standing in line. People see our (Post & Parcel) shirts and are happy to talk.
Once again electronics, particularly flat-screen televisions, were on many shoppers minds. Clothing stores were also popular, particularly inside Bellis Fair, as lines formed outside of Old Navy and Abercrombie & Fitch.
With the Canadian dollar remaining strong, the sales in Bellingham were particularly attractive to British Columbia residents. Mary Griffin of Surrey, B.C. said that while stores in Canada are doing more sales for the holidays, its still worth it to make the trip across the border.
You save so much more money coming here, Griffin said while waiting in line outside the Bellingham Target store.
While plenty of Canadians made the trip, the early openings appeared to bring out more Whatcom County residents. It was particularly evident at Bellis Fair, with teens walking around wearing sweatshirts emblazoned with local school names.
A few first-timers were also enjoying the event. Dawn Eldred of Blaine said she decided to line up outside of Best Buy because of a particularly good deal on a television. She arrived at 2:30 p.m. on Thursday and ended up near the front of the line.
I think Best Buy has done a wonderful job in how they organize (the opening), Eldred said. Its been very cold, but Ive met a lot of very friendly people. Its been great.
Reach Dave Gallagher at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 360-715-2269. Visit his business blog online at blogs.bellinghamherald.com/business or get updates on Twitter at twitter.com/BhamHeraldBiz.