Last Updated: Jan 8th, 2015 - 07:42:25

Holiday Sales Part of Thanksgiving Tradition
By Sarah Steele Wilson, Newsroom Editor
Nov 27, 2012, 16:32

photo by Sarah Steele Wilson Brad Williams donated the shipping crate he calls home for two days every year to Savannah Hooker and Jacob Fallin for their dog, Big Carl. Hooker and Fallin decided to give the dog house a try before store doors opened.

For six years now, Hopewell resident Brad Williams has made it his mission to be one of the first people in line for the opening of Black Friday sales. Each year, he arrives on Wednesday morning and sets up camp in a shipping crate that he weatherizes with shrink wrap. 

“It was slow, gradually people started coming, and the line doubled at about 5 o’clock today,” described Williams, who arrived outside the Best Buy in Colonial Heights at 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday morning.

Although part of the reason Williams showed up again this year was to score a deal on a 40 inch television screen, the ritual of the wait is part of the allure.

“It kind of turns into...a block party almost,” he said. “Everybody’s talking about what’s happened in the past year and what we’re trying to go for this year.”

He has friends he sees every year, and says his favorite thing about the two day wait, “the camaraderie,” is worth “battling the elements,” his least favorite thing about his annual camping trip.

“We see each other once a year, but we know each other,” Williams said of the other annual early birds, two of whom picked up not just a 40 inch television but a new house for their dog.

Williams donated his box to Jacob Fallin and Savannah Hooker and their dog, Big Carl.

“We were with him out here last year,” said Fallin, describing how they got to know Williams. 

Fallin and Hooker were also enjoying the spirit of the retail event, even though they were a bit chilly.

“It’s fun but cold,” Hooker said.

Williams, Fallin and Hooker were joined by a record number of shoppers this year, according to numbers compiled by the National Retail Federation. Last year’s Black Friday figures were record breaking, and this year’s surpassed those.

The organization’s annual survey of Thanksgiving shopping patterns indicated that this year, more than 35 million shoppers headed out on Thanksgiving itself, up from 29 million last year. Also, 28 percent of shoppers were at stores by midnight on Black Friday this year, up from 24.4 percent last year, while the total numbers for the day grew from 86 to 89 million people.

Nationwide and locally, many stores kicked the shopping season off earlier this year, opening their doors and offering sales before the traditional turkey serving time.
photo by Sarah Steele Wilson Julie Moore and Andrea Sparlin, both from Fort Lee, spent a busy day visiting different stores.

As midnight drew near, Julie Moore and Andrea Sparlin, both from Fort Lee, were waiting in lawn chairs outside Old Navy. They had been in line since 9:45, killing time with Krispy Kreme donuts and conversations with other shoppers while participating in what has become a fun annual tradition for them.

“We were pretty excited for Black Friday to come,” Sparlin said.

They already had a long day of shopping under their belts.

Moore began her day at K-Mart, arriving at 4:30 a.m. After going home to eat and take a nap, she met up with Sparlin, who went to Michaels, Toys R Us and Sears with her.

This was the first year they had been able to stagger their visits, which Moore said actually made planning easier.

“It was easier to plan this year because it was staggered. Every other time, if everything opened at midnight, you had to pick what had the best deals,” she said. “This time, you can get all the good deals because you can stagger where you go.”

Wal-mart also opened its doors earlier than in the past, inviting shoppers in on Thanksgiving day. Although some Wal-mart workers across the country were participating in a strike organized by the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union and had plans to picket stores on Black Friday, none could be seen outside the Colonial Heights location. And the retailer said that the strikes didn’t affect their sales.

Wal-mart issued a statement reporting record Black Friday sales and 22 million customers on Thursday.

“Only 26 protests occurred at stores last night and many of them did not include any Wal-mart associates,” Bill Simon, Wal-mart U.S. president and chief executive officer, said in the retailer’s statement.

One person visiting the retail stores of Colonial Heights on Thursday and Friday was not in favor of the shopping event.

“I oppose Black Friday due to the fact that there are better things in the world than the material items that we indulge in,” said Mariah Wallace. “I can completely understand that people are buying gifts at a lower price, but the foundation of Christmas is to have family unity and to enjoy one another’s company on a different level.”

She said she was talking to people in line, asking them if they thought there were better things in the world than material possessions. She said everyone she talked to said yes.

“There are people in other countries and people in our country who don’t have the ability or the luxury to do what we do,” she said. “Why don’t we spend the money to help the world and make it a better place?”
photo by Sarah Steele Wilson Although the lines outside the Colonial Heights Best Buy were shorter this year, Black Friday 2012 broke records.

Strikes and misgivings aside, total spending this year reached as estimated $59.1 billion, according to the National Federation. The average holiday shopper spent $423, up from an average amount of $398 last year.

The entire weekend attracted 247 million shoppers to stores and websites nation wide, up from 226 million last year.

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