The Valdosta Daily Times
Black Friday sales have become synonymous with chaotic shopping experiences, but with six fewer holiday shopping days than last year, Black Friday sales shifted from midnight to Thursday afternoon and so did the chaos.
Erika Townsend went shopping Friday morning and noticed things were very different this year.
“It was so slow. It was easier to shop today than on a normal day at Walmart,” said Townsend, “All the big money items were sold out, so it really died down and was calm.”
Walmart, Target, Best Buy and other large retailers shifted their traditional midnight start time for Black Friday sales to as early as 6 p.m. Thanksgiving Day. Long lines of shoppers waited for hours to save on electronics, clothes and other merchandise, and the result was a longer shopping time for those looking to save big on “doorbuster” items and less chaos for shoppers the next day.
By 10 p.m., cars filled the parking lots of Toys R Us, the Valdosta Mall, Target, both WalMarts, and Best Buy with no spaces left to be found. Many stores opened early on Thanksgiving evening and didn’t close, opting to stay open through the night and all day Friday before closing Friday night.
The Valdosta Mall opened at 8 p.m. Thursday, and Enid Santana, the mall’s general manager, was very pleased with the results. By 10 p.m., not a parking space was left unfilled and cars were spilling over into other areas.
“The traffic at the mall was excellent,” said Santana, “We were busier for a longer period of time.”
Santana said that the six fewer shopping days this year created a “sense of urgency” that has been great for retailers, but she credits the shift away from the midnight sale time in creating a “calmer” atmosphere and putting shoppers in “better spirits.”
“Instead of sitting in the cold without food until midnight, shoppers were able to come in where it’s warm and shop,” said Santana.
Most stores in the mall opened at 8 p.m., but a few stuck with the traditional midnight starting time.
“I waited in line with some friends at Gamestop from 6:30 p.m. to midnight to get a PS4,” said Jon Burch, “They only had a few available and everywhere else was sold out.”
Around 85 percent of the businesses at Valdosta Mall opened their doors early Thursday, said Santana, but Valdosta Vault was one that opted to not open on Thanksgiving at all.
“We’re more of a family business, and we wanted our employees to spend the day with their families,” said Michael Anderson, marketing manager.
Anderson said Valdosta Vault saw steady sales Friday morning but that the crowds really did not start to pick up until around noon.
“I think the early start time gave people the opportunity to go home, get some sleep and come back to shop some more,” said Santana.
At least one Valdosta business stayed consistently busy regardless of sale start times.
“We prepared over 800 hams and over 350 turkeys over the past few days,” said Brittany Starr, assistant manager at the HoneyBaked Ham Company on Baytree Road.
Starr expects around a 20 percent increase in those numbers for Christmas and has enjoyed the overall attitude of her customers.
“Everyone has just been nice with a happy attitude,” said Starr.