Black Thanksgiving – the latest escalation of the race to draw holiday shoppers to stores earlier and earlier – drew big crowds locally but decidedly mixed reviews.
Walmart, 1710 Apple Glen Blvd., and Target, 1102 S. Thomas Road, opened at 8 and 9 p.m. Thursday, respectively, and they were crowded. At Target, about 800 shoppers were in line minutes before doors opened at 9 p.m.
But if the parking lots and store aisles were packed, the shoppers themselves were often filled with misgivings.
“I liked the later” Black Friday, said Sesamille Moore of Fort Wayne, who staked her spot in line outside target at about 5:30 p.m. “I had no time to spend with my family, but I gotta get the deals.”
“I think it is sad the employees have to work,” said Jeni Hapner of Fort Wayne, who arrived about 6 p.m. “But in today's economic climate, you can't pass up the amount of savings.”
Walmart never closed but had “doorbuster” specials stacked on pallets and shrink-wrapped, earmarked for sale after 8 p.m. By 7:30 p.m., shoppers had clustered around coveted electronics and toys, poised to snap them up when they were unwrapped. Some shoppers were more poised than others. One group tore the wrapping off a pallet of goods at about 7:45 and started packing them in their carts. Store managers then opened other pallets early, too.
Outside Walmart shortly after 8 p.m., Christina Milledge of Fort Wayne said she didn't have any trouble getting the PlayStation she'd been aiming for, and she liked the early sales times. Having sales staggered through Thanksgiving evening and early Friday morning helps her family catch more deals.
In line at Target before its 9 p.m. Thursday opening, Kim Kocher of Fort Wayne said she and her mother, Sandy Osborne of Indianapolis, already gleaned the deals they sought from Walmart. “It's fairly well-organized,” Kocher said of Walmart. “Everybody's nice,” Osborne said of the Walmart shoppers, though it was crowded.
The mother-and-daughter team was particularly interested in toys, videogames and movies at Target, one of four stores they planned to visit overnight.
After Target opened its doors, people continued streaming into place at the end of the line. One or two people entered every second, except for roughly minute-long breaks every four or five minutes when store security halted the line. It took more than 20 minutes until the line disappeared and new arrivals could walk in without waiting.
Before the opening, Alex and Heather Satterthwaite were behind at least 400 people in line. He was aiming for a copy of Halo 4, which comes with a $20 gift card as a Black Thanksgiving special. Their opinions on the early, early sales were split.
“I feel like it works worse,” Alex Satterthwaite said.
“I think it works better,” Heather Satterthwaite said.
“More people show up when it's earlier,” he said.
“Would you show up at 4 a.m. to get it?” she asked.
“No,” he said.
“So I think it works better,” she concluded.