Some local retailers saw a surge of Black Friday shoppers taking advantage of the new hours that began the official Christmas shopping season at 8 p.m. Thursday, not Friday morning.
Hundreds descended on Walmart and Goody’s for those special bargains worth waiting in long lines for hours in the cold. Lowe’s store manager Ed Derham said even though his store didn’t open until 5 a.m. Friday, they got an overflow of parking from Walmart customers.
“Walmart customers took over my parking lot for a while last night,” said Derham, who added that his store was doing well Friday. “We had a pretty good crowd here at 5 o’clock this morning — probably 30 or more customers.”
Derham said customers were shopping for what appeared to be a combination of tools that were purchased as gifts — like an 18-volt drill — and things for themselves — like a memory-foam air mattress. Other big-selling items were space heaters, fireplace pits, Christmas decorations and an infrared turkey fryer.
One draw for many Hinesville Lowe’s customers is its policy offering a 10-percent discount to military customers.
Walmart customer Valerie Winship loaded her 5-year-old daughter Landrie in a shopping cart as Winship’s mother helped Landrie’s twin sister, McKaylee, out of her car seat. Winship said she purposely avoided the shopping rush Thursday night and early Friday morning.
“We’re shopping for Christmas sales,” she said, explaining she wasn’t looking for anything in particular. “We didn’t get here with the early morning rush. We’re not into that.”
Bath & Body Works manager Tina Torres noted that her business probably was affected by nearby Walmart opening Thursday night. Even though her store was open at 6 a.m. Friday, the rush of Walmart customers was over by mid-morning. She also said the warm weather probably was leading some people to do more outdoor things with their families than come inside for shopping.
“Business has been decent, but it hasn’t been as good as previous (Black Fridays),” Torres said. “Walmart drives traffic here, and that traffic has already gone down now. All in all, though, we’re still getting customers. People are still out shopping.”
She said most of her customers were shopping for Christmas gifts. She added that customers looking for personal body-care products as gifts know they can get the same product at the same price in Hinesville without having to fight traffic in Savannah.
Dana Strate was one of those shoppers. She made her purchase through sales representative Jade Williams while her husband, Fort Stewart soldier Sgt. Matt Strate, waited with their 7-week-old son, Achilles.
Goody’s store manager Pat Smith and district manager Shawn Boehme were pleased with the number of shoppers who showed up early.
“We were open from 8-12 p.m., and we re-opened at 6 a.m.,” Smith said. “We did excellent last night, and it’s been steady today. They’re buying gift items, I think, because most customers are asking for gift receipts.”
“We’re really interested in seeing how the rest of the weekend will go,” Boehme said. “We want to see if opening last night and early this morning will pick up sales (overall), or if the same dollars (from last year) are going to be spread over the long weekend.”
Smith said 75-80 people waited in line Thursday night for the big opening, and at least 45 were waiting in line Friday morning.
Boehme said it was surprising patrons were willing to wait so long in the cold, but he speculated that an Android tablet they had on sale was the drawing factor. He said most of those were sold by midnight and the rest were sold shortly after re-opening Friday morning.
Hinesville resident Jodie Smith said she was buying gifts for others as sale representative Inge Sifford rang up her merchandise.
“I bought something for everybody in the family but me,” said Smith, who laughed as she thanked Sifford. “But that’s what moms do.”
Although she had been working more than four hours already, Sifford said she didn’t mind the Black Friday rush of bargain-hunting shoppers.
“It wasn’t that bad,” she said. “We love our customers.”