Local shoppers descend on stores

Black Friday starts on Thursday at some chains




Black Friday shoppers descended in swarms on Clark County stores from Thursday evening through Friday at daybreak, landing just long enough to swallow up doorbuster specials and move on.

“I ran really fast,” said Maria Arreola, who was among a crush of shoppers streaming into J.C. Penney when its Westfield Vancouver mall store opened at 6 a.m. Friday. She came away with 11 of the store’s advertised $8 small appliance specials, including a crockpot, toaster oven, electric griddle and coffee maker.

It was her third retail stop since 11 p.m. Thursday, Arreola said with a yawn. Like many other Clark County shoppers, her search for bargains had started the evening before at earlier-than-ever after-Thanksgiving sales. The sales, known as Black Friday because the profits are said to turn bookkeepers’ red ink to black, are traditionally the busiest time of the year for retailers.

Competition for market share had retail chains including Wal-Mart, Target Corp. and Toys R Us opening their doors Thursday evening for the second year in a row, a break from the traditional early morning sales of Black Friday.

The Associated Press reported that the National Retail Federation expects overall holiday sales in November and December to rise 4.1 percent this year to $586.1 billion, below last year’s 5.6 percent growth. Brick-and-mortar retailers also must compete with rising online competition, where holiday sales are expected to increase 15 percent to $68.4 billion, according to Forrester Research.

Not every Clark County shopper appreciated Black Friday’s day-early start.

“It kind of takes away from Thanksgiving,” said Dewanna McIntosh of Vancouver, who arrived at J.C. Penney at 6:05 a.m. with her shopping companions, Gina McIntosh and Becky Rath.

The trio were greeted by mostly empty shelves where the advertised $8 small appliances had been displayed, McIntosh said as she clutched an $8 crockpot. She snapped it up after another shopper decided he didn’t want to wait in the store’s long checkout line.

“I hope he has a merry Christmas,” McIntosh said. “We came here just for these.”

J.C. Penney Co.’s leaders deliberately chose not to open on Thursday, said Deanna Hansen, store manager.

“We let our employees enjoy the Thanksgiving,” she said shortly after her store opened Friday morning. “As you can see, we’re busier than ever.”

The Friday morning sale drew hundreds of customers lined up at both the outside entrances and at the two mall entrances to the two-story store. Many of the shoppers were ready for action, clutching their lists and moving right to the advertised specials just as soon as the doors slid open.

“They know exactly where they want to go,” whether it was to the store specials such as $10 skinny jeans or $12 men’s dress shirts, Hansen said.

Within the first 15 minutes after the store opened, bargain-hunting customers had riffled through a table of specially priced fashion boots in the shoe department. Customer Jennifer Ireland of Vancouver examined the chaotic aftermath.

“Where do you even start?” she asked.

Ireland and her daughter, Alex Ellis, started their Black Friday spree at 5 a.m. at Walmart and moved through two other stores that had opened the night before. The duo said most of the doorbusters were gone by the time they arrived, although they appreciated not having to fight the crowds.

“I still found a few things, and it wasn’t as crazy,” Ireland said.

The shopping activity appeared to be back to normal by 6:45 a.m. Friday at Target’s Vancouver Plaza store. It had been much different when the doors opened at 9 p.m. Thursday, said Nick White, a store associate.

“There was a line outside, and now all of our doorbusters are gone,” he said.

The store specials included a flat screen television, clothing items and popular toys like Sesame Street’s Talking Elmo plush doll.

White’s co-worker Glen Packard said the store should be restocked with merchandise within the week, although some high-demand items will be hard to keep on hand through Christmas.

“A lot of our toy items go fast,” he said.