Families hit Black Friday shopping in Vancouver

But say online sales and earlier shopping days have changed the shopping frenzy

By Troy Brynelson, Columbian staff writer

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When it comes to Black Friday shopping, Gina Detlor and Sarah Benson are purists. They refuse to shop on Thanksgiving, even as more retailers roll out doorbuster sales that very evening.

“Stay home on Thanksgiving. Play your games. Eat your food. (Then) get to bed,” said Detlor.

“Thanksgiving is for family,” added Benson, a Ridgefield resident. “Friday is for shopping.”

Black Friday was clearly for the family, too. The two cousins were joined on the predawn shopping spree by five other relatives, trucking half-full carts around Target on Southeast 162nd Avenue and Mill Plain Boulevard. They wore plush reindeer antlers and rocked shirts reading “Black Friday Shopping Team.” Even the car has antlers most years, they said.

“A guy at Starbucks recognized us from last year,” said Detlor, who traveled from Snohomish for the holiday and pored over the ads Thursday. Their morning dash already included a stop at Fred Meyer before Target opened.

They were among the dozens who flooded into Target for the morning. Doors opened at 6 a.m. to a relatively small line, and the biggest crowds seemed to cluster around the electronics and toy departments.

Jill Dutchess, shopping with her daughter Angie Hearn and granddaughter, said Friday seemed quiet compared with years past, but said she saw a lot of family togetherness.

“Families are together (shopping) that aren’t usually,” she said, adding that relatives are in town and kids are home from college.

Nicole Nance, a digital strategist from Vancouver, and her two stepdaughters were first in line Friday to carry on a four-year shopping tradition. Their targets: clothes branded after the Netflix show “Stranger Things,” some boots and anything related to the rock band Panic! at the Disco. She said they like the festive atmosphere and make a game of finding the goofiest sweaters.

“My stepkids like to see the craziness,” she said. But she added that online shopping has calmed it down. “I think they’ve taken away (some excitement) from in-store sales.”

Online shopping certainly continues to change the retail landscape. The National Retail Federation forecasts sales to rise 3.6 percent this year, but also predicts 59 percent of shoppers plan to do their shopping online. More retailers have begun opening Thanksgiving to be the first served for holiday shopping.

Target kicked off sales 6 p.m. Thanksgiving Day. Store manager Chelsea Contreras said it seemed shoppers wanted to wrap up Christmas shopping earlier this year.

“It went really well. We had a line and guests were super excited” she said, adding that the hottest items were vacuums, big-screen televisions, hoverboards and Hatchimal toys. More customers are also buying from Target’s website, she said, where the same deals are offered. Contreras could not disclose how sales fared compared with previous years.

Ultimately, she said she has heard rumblings about customers flocking to online shopping and dismissing the Thanksgiving Day openings, but the rush of customers speaks for itself.

“I’ve been with Target for six years and the business hasn’t really changed,” she said. “Everyone is like ‘Oh, we’re not going to shop on Thanksgiving,’ but we have a lot of guests that come in (that day) and are super excited.”

Friday is only the beginning of the shopping season, though. Many shoppers, like Nance, are gearing up for more deals on Small Business Saturday and the online shopping day Cyber Monday.