A quieter, more relaxed start to the holiday shopping season

The early kickoff to the holiday shopping season had a relaxed, almost casual feel around Bellingham’s big box stores and Bellis Fair on Thursday, Nov. 27.

Shoppers needed to eat Thanksgiving dinner in the early afternoon in order to catch the 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. openings. The lines outside several stores at opening time appeared shorter than previous years, with the parking lots mostly filled with vehicles that had British Columbia license plates.

Sean Roufosse of Abbotsford, B.C. wanted to make sure he was able to get a 50-inch Panasonic television that was on sale at Best Buy for $199, so he started the line on Wednesday morning, Nov. 26.

“I thought everyone would come earlier,” he said, adding that he also wanted to experience the fun of hanging out with fellow shoppers.

Others did arrive, with the first groups hoping to get televisions at discount prices. Aside from the television, some didn’t see great deals in the advertising fliers.

“Last year was better (in terms of sales),” said Rose Nguyen of Abbotsford.

With Canada’s Thanksgiving held last month, Nov. 27 was more a matter of taking the day off of work or school to look for deals. Despite a weaker Canadian dollar compared to the U.S. dollar, several in line at the Bellingham stores said the prices on many products were still much lower in Bellingham than in British Columbia.

“Canadian stores try to do Black Friday sales, but they can’t compete on price,” said Sharleen White of Aldergrove, B.C.

White was among a group of Canadian hockey moms at the front of the line at Target. They had arrived on Thanksgiving morning, with each of them remarking at how calm it was this year as well as last year. They passed the time by catching up on what was happening in their lives, reading books and looking at computer tablets.

“We do this for the company as much as the prices,” said Hiromi Lochovsky of Aldergrove.

For Nicole Quiring of Aldergrove, who was the first in line at Target, this was the second year of participating in the Gray Thursday/Black Friday sales, and each time had been a good experience.

“I was expecting pushing and shoving, but I haven’t seen that at all,” Quiring said, adding that she tries to get most of her Christmas shopping done during this sale.

Walmart also had a calmer feel than previous years. At the 6 p.m. event, which featured some sales on electronics, there was no line outside the store an hour before the event. The parking lot was full, however, and traffic did seem to increase later in the evening.

The big football showdown between the Seattle Seahawks and the San Francisco 49ers may have also played a role in the quieter start to the holiday shopping season. The game started around the same time as some of the store openings.

At the food court in Bellis Fair, around 25 fans gathered around the big screen to watch the start of the game. By 6 p.m., a little more than half the stores inside the mall were open. René Morris, general manager at Bellis Fair, said the stores had the option of opening either Thursday evening or waiting until Friday.