Many local retailers were doing brisk business during the unofficial kickoff to the holiday shopping season, but in the traditional subdued Bellingham style.
As the Apple Cup football game started Friday afternoon, the Bellis Fair parking lot was about 90 percent full, making it tough to find a space, especially in front of the mall.
Anchor stores like JC Penney had a steady line of customers at the cash registers, while plenty of people were wandering around inside the mall, checking out the specialty shops. The Meridian and Cordata shopping centers near the mall also were bustling, with the parking lots in nearby retail centers also full.
“It’s been very busy, especially on Thursday,” said Rene Morris, senior general manager at Bellis Fair. She said hundreds of people were lined up outside the JC Penney store on Thursday afternoon, waiting for the 3 p.m. opening.
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Household and kitchen items appeared to be popular on the first two days, along with clothing and toys, Morris said.
Friday morning was much quieter at the mall, with traffic picking up in the afternoon, said Tammy Vatcher, team leader of the See’s Candies seasonal booth in the Macy’s wing of the mall. From her vantage point, she saw people with shopping bags, but also many people pondering their options.
For Vatcher’s business, the Black Friday weekend tends to be a busy time, followed by the final two weeks before Christmas. Those final two weeks usually are when she starts running out of the more popular candy flavors.
“For people who know what they want, now is the time to get it,” Vatcher said.
Some were finding deals and getting their Christmas lists completed. Tracey Hilmarsen of White Rock, B.C., was well on her way to knocking off her list after visiting several stores. Although the Canadian dollar is weaker compared to the U.S. dollar in recent years, that didn’t deter her from cross-border shopping.
“I’m finding some good deals this year,” she said.
She had arrived in the morning and noticed it quieter, apparently missing the Thursday Thanksgiving rush.
“It’s actually been very relaxing,” she said, referring to the shopping experience.
The shopping kickoff on Thursday was relatively trouble free, with no major issues reported at Bellis Fair.
“It was a pretty upbeat crowd, with plenty of shoppers carrying bags,” said AJ Werfelmann, operations manager at the mall.
That atmosphere carried over into Friday, Morris said.
“People are not stressing out so far; many seem to be very nice to each other,” Morris said.