Shopping frenzy gets underway

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 26, 2004

Early-bird shoppers flocked into Greenville area stores as early as 4:50 a.m. Friday to get a jump start on holiday discounts on one of the busiest shopping days of the year.

By 7:30 a.m., Tommie Fails was leaving Fred’s in Gateway Plaza, her second store of the morning.

After finding discounts at Wal-Mart and Fred’s, she’d only spent about $150, but she had about four bags of toy and clothing gifts.

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At 4:50 a.m. at Fred’s, a line of shoppers stood in the frosty morning air for the 5 a.m. opening. Many hoped to be inside for advertised early bird specials.

Their patience was rewarded when Randy Beeson, manager, opened up the doors 10 minutes.

&uot;I thought it would be a healthy thing if I opened a few minutes early,&uot;

he said Friday afternoon.

&uot;I just pushed the doors wide open and stepped back up against the wall.&uot;

Beeson equated the rush into the store and then rather hectic day to a hurricane.

&uot;In September we had Hurricane Ivan and when I opened the doors, we had Hurricane Santa in progresss,&uot;

he said.

He said by 3 p.m. Friday, it was downgraded to a shopping tropical depression.

&uot;I guess they’re getting a little tired by now,&uot;

he said.

&uot;Now, we have those who are getting off work who will be coming through.&uot;

Fred’s, a longtime discount stalwart in Greenville, continued its tradition of opening before dawn for the day after Thanksgiving shopping.

Other stores in the city opened for business on Thursday, but Beeson said sales still were up despite those businesses being open.

&uot;Our sales are still strong and above last year’s, despite other merchants being open some on Thanksgiving,&uot; he said.

Deborah Findley, who was shopping at Fred’s after noon, said she didn’t get started until later in the day, but that wasn’t a problem.

&uot;It really hasn’t been that bad,&uot; she said.

&uot;Earlier it was worse. I had to stand in line at Goody’s.&uot;

She also tipped her hat to local merchants on having things she needed.

&uot;This is a lot better than Montgomery,&uot; she said.

&uot;My thoughts went to Montgomery and said it was pretty bad.&uot;

Another shopper, Cheryl Smith, said things were congested everywhere but she could still find everything.

Across the interstate, shoppers didn’t have to stand in line but they did have to wait until 6 a.m. for bargains to begin at Wal-Mart.

Shoppers milled in, grabbed their buggies and made their way to the area of the store where their items were located.

When the clock struck 6, the mad dash was on.

In Butler Square, the parking lot in front of Goody’s and Dollar General were filled with cars.

Dollar General manager Dot Higdon said sales were great.

&uot;The crowds have been constant and everything has gone smoothly looking for the sales,&uot;

she said.

Dollar General was one of the stores open on Thanksgiving and Higdon said they got a taste of the shopping frenzy on Thursday.

&uot;We had a busy day,&uot; she said.

&uot;People seemed to finish their lunch and then they came here looking for some bargains. They shopped and looked steadily throughout the day.&uot;

At the Pineapple downtown, things were buzzing on the day after Thanksgiving. The gift shop was holding an open house both Friday and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

On Friday afternoon, store manager Katrina Scofield said the business had been steady all day.

&uot;We have a lot of local people with relatives who come into town for Thanksgiving each year and we can always count on our locals and those out-of-town guests to stop in and shop with us on this weekend,&uot; Scofield said.

The shop was offering discounts both days, along with seasonal refreshments and Christmas music to put their shoppers in the holiday mood.

Customers also had the opportunity to register for a $50 gift certificate.

Sales were offered to give incentives to those browsing the store.

&uot;We are offering 60 percent off on everything Thanksgiving-related, boxed Christmas cards at 25 percent off and apparel at 20 percent off,&uot; Scofield.

A steady stream of shoppers kept the Pineapple’s door chimes ringing on Friday. &uot;It’s been nice…I think this change in the weather has really helped finally put people in the mood to shop. It’s just been too hot – nobody even wanted to look at a sweater,&uot; Scofield commented.

At CVS Drugs on Fort Dale Road, clerk Kayla Thomas said things had been &uot;busy&uot; since her 10 a.m. arrival at work. &uot;They told me it was really, really busy first thing this morning [at 6 a.m.] with people coming in to buy our specials like the DVD players,&uot; Thomas said.

The drugstore’s DVD players quickly sold out.

At Alissa’s Closet on East Commerce Street, late Friday afternoon, owner Vesta Taylor, who was offering a 15% discount to her day-after-Thanksgiving shoppers, reported things were going at &uot;a pretty steady pace&uot;

at the gift shop and had been that way all day. &uot;I’m pleased,&uot; she said.

For retailers nationwide, the day after Thanksgiving marks the official start of the holiday shopping season. To retailers, it’s known as Black Friday, the day some stores leave behind the red ink – that is, losses – and move into the black.

Holiday shopping makes up nearly one fourth of yearly sales for most retailers, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers.

Holiday sales are expected to increase by four to six percent this year, according to the National Retail Federation. The demand for hot ticket items like electronics, video games, jewelry and home furnishings remain high. But bargain deals still top most shoppers lists.

Advocate reporters Angie Long, Chris Henley and Griffin Pritchard contributed to this report.