BELLINGHAM — An early kickoff to the holiday shopping season didn’t slow down local shoppers looking for deals.
Whatcom County and Canadian shoppers swarmed the Cordata area in the evening hours of Thanksgiving Day, particularly around the big box stores and Bellis Fair mall in a sales event that featured staggered openings. During the 6 p.m. openings, the Bellingham Walmart was particularly busy, with a line that extended around the back of the building and continued to wrap around in an S formation.
The store quickly filled to capacity and at least one employee handling line control was telling people that they should expect to wait up to an hour to get inside. Not only was the Walmart parking lot full, but so were several nearby lots, with crowds regularly crossing Meridian Street to walk over to Walmart.
Other parts of Cordata were more subdued during that early opening, but became more crowded during the 8 p.m. openings. At the Bellingham Target, the line was relatively small around 6 p.m., but grew to the point that by 8 p.m. it rivaled previous Black Friday openings.
Joey Bueno of Lynden was among the first in line at Target, hoping to get a television and a few other holiday items. He’s done Black Friday openings in previous years and prefers the midnight or Friday morning openings.
“This (early opening) meant less time with family,” Bueno said. “But you can save quite a bit of money.”
Bueno adjusted by having family members stand in line for him in shifts. He attended two Thanksgiving events while someone stood in line for him.
Those in the front of the lines tended to have specific purchases in mind. Jacquie Salas of Bellingham was near the front of the Target line hoping to get Nikon cameras for herself and a co-worker. A Black Friday regular, Salas said she’d also prefer the midnight or early morning openings, but didn’t mind the wait on Thanksgiving.
“They call me the crazy one of the family, but I enjoy it,” Salas said with a laugh.
With a 6 p.m. opening, Best Buy appeared to have a slightly smaller line at the opening than in previous years, but had a steady stream of shoppers in the first two hours. Chris Stallwood and Michael Reimer, both from British Columbia, wanted to make sure they were at the front of the line, so they arrived at 2 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 27. They were happy that the weather was relatively mild, using sleeping bags to stay warm as they waited to get computers and televisions.
The main mall area was open by 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, with Christmas music playing and the interior looking new with the recent remodel. Shoppers didn’t seem to mind that many of the stores didn’t open until 8 p.m.; most seemed content to wander around doing some window shopping. The one big line inside the mall was for the Old Navy store, where about 200 were waiting 20 minutes before the store opened.