Thursday evening's Best Buy line held no maniacal moms or trigger-happy customers carrying pepper spray. No fights broke out in the line or over a particularly juicy deal in the store.
Thursday evening’s Best Buy line held no maniacal moms or trigger-happy customers carrying pepper spray. No fights broke out in the line or over a particularly juicy deal in the store.
Even the time-honored “door busting” was fairly anticlimactic. Daniel Stoll, who arrived about 6 p.m. Wednesday to secure his spot at the front of the line, strolled in, nodded hello to an employee, and continued on to retrieve the 24-inch TV he’d waited 24 hours to buy.
Only one customer, a graying, bobbed-cut woman in a suede trench coat, had even a determined clip to her entrance. Earlier, while still in line, she had petitioned one of the Best Buy employees for a tapped-out voucher.
Stoll and his companions, Nathan Beckers and Casey Mruzek, are seasoned Black Friday deal hunters — Mruzek’s been busting doors since 2002. They all agreed this year’s was a tamer line than they’d experienced in the past.
“There’s just been more hustle bustle, people trying to jump lines … it almost starts fights,” Mruzek said of previous years. “Someone will say they’re holding the spot for one person and then six people show up.”
There were about 100 shivering customers in line just before the Casper branch opened, as opposed to the 300 to 500 Mruzek said he’d seen in previous years.
The rationale? It could be because it was Mruzek’s first Wyoming Black Friday, or maybe it had to do with the start time. Like many national big box stores, Best Buy chose to open its doors on Thanksgiving Thursday.
It’s a controversial holiday trend that doesn’t show any signs of decelerating. Each of the past few years, Black Friday kickoffs creeped earlier and earlier, with some chains now opening their doors during prime Thanksgiving dinner hours.
Some newspaper editorials proclaimed American consumerism had sunk to new lows, with the national day of thanks now coinciding with the national day of greed. Online petitions pleading for retail chains to allow their employees to spend Thanksgiving with families generated hundreds of thousands of signatures but made little actual impact.
In Casper on Thursday, national chains such as Sears, Kohl’s, Macy’s and JCPenny opened at 8 p.m. Kmart opened at 7 p.m., Best Buy at 6 p.m.
James Franklin, the fourth person in line for Best Buy, said he didn’t necessarily agree with the Thanksgiving opening.
“I feel bad for [the employees], but at the same time I’m not gonna miss out on the deals,” he said.
Casper Best Buy General Manager Mike Davis said the earlier start time may have helped stagger customer visits. People could have also been less frantic to get in and out because it wasn’t so late at night.
“All in all, to me it seemed like the attitude was better,” he said.
Initial reports from the National Retail Federation indicated consumers were flooding stores on “Black Thursday” with the same gusto they previously reserved for the day after the holiday.
“By all appearances and according to CEOs I’ve spoken with across the retail spectrum, it looks like the early opening of stores on Thanksgiving and the traditional start of holiday shopping on Black Friday is breaking new records, including what companies are seeing through their digital channels,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said in a media release issued Friday.
The late date for Thanksgiving this year, Nov. 28, made the holiday season even more important for retailers. For some stores, the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas can account for as much as 20 to 40 percent of annual sales. NRF estimates a 3.9 percent bump in holiday sales this year, totaling about $602 billion.
For now, Thanksgivings seem to be safe for the employees of local Casper retailers. While many downtown stores participate in Black Friday promotions, the specials are more of a response to the shopping demand rather than an attempt to compete with big box stores.
Toy Town offered 20 percent off the entire store from 8 to 10 a.m. on Friday. Sonic Rainbow joined the “Back to Black Record Store Day” movement along with other independent music retailers across the country, and offered exclusive releases not available at chains. Derby Boutique celebrated its second annual “Black & Tan Friday,” serving $4 black and tan beers inside the funky clothing store.
Some retailers like Wind City Books were simply inadvertent beneficiaries. The store didn’t offer any sales, opened and closed per usual, and still enjoyed larger crowds, said co-owners Hugh Jenkins and Vicki Burger.
For some Casper patrons, it was just another day.
“When I poop, I always get to go to the train store,” said 3-year-old Brant Lewis as he powered a Thomas the Tank Engine around the wooden track at Toy Town, past his 10-month-old brother Keaton. Their mother Susan confirmed that the three visited the store often.
Toy Town co-owner Dalene Lockhart said that Black Friday isn’t by far the biggest day for the shop. The sales increase as the time until Christmas diminishes.
“It’s just an answer to the big boxes,” she said.
And no, she said. She would never consider opening on Thanksgiving.