November 28, 2009
Habits change as customers begin holiday shopping
Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Nancy Lajoie of Tully loads her car Friday morning outside the Walmart department store on Route 13 in Cortlandville. She said her line began in the automotive section where she stood in line for 1 1/2 hours before she made it to the cash register. Barriers can be seen set up at the front of the store where security steered customers to the side doors.
CORTLANDVILLE — Shoppers tried different approaches this year during the Black Friday rush, with some heading to department stores while it was still dark in order to get what they wanted, others waiting for the crowds to dwindle.
Crowds packed Walmart on Route 13 in Cortlandville for a sale that lasted from 5 to 11 a.m., after the store was open all day Thanksgiving and remained open overnight. People packed the store by 6:30 a.m., causing waits of an hour and a half in checkout lines.
Some of the people interviewed in the store’s parking lot said they had spent most of the night traveling to stores between Tompkins, Cortland and Broome counties to take advantage of the savings.
Cortland residents Sarah Maine, Julie McChesney and Linda Griffin said at 9:45 a.m. that they had shopped all night.
“We went to Binghamton and started with Toys ‘R’ Us at midnight, then Old Navy at 3 a.m.,” Maine said. “Then Kohl’s at 4, Target at 5, Kmart at 6 or 7 — I don’t even know what time anymore — and up here to Walmart.”
Maine and McChesney are friends from their SUNY Canton student days. Griffin is McChesney’s mother.
The trio said they usually venture to the stores on Black Friday.
“But not to this extent,” Maine said. “We were more structured this year. It was different because we skipped going to bed.”
McChesney said she is spending a little less on gifts and sticking to a budget, which is new for her. Maine said she is spending about the same “but I’m not done yet, so it’s hard to say how much I’ll be spending.”
McChesney and Maine said they were shopping mostly for their children’s gifts. Their shopping carts were full of toys.
Linda Fenner of Cortland said she was more conservative this year.
“I’m buying what is needed, not what is wanted,” Fenner said.
Carol Miller, a Dryden resident, said she was able to find what she needed to buy, but was still watchful of how much she spent — despite the discounts.
“With money so tight, you gotta budget and make sure you don’t overspend,” Miller said while standing in the Walmart parking lot.
Unlike most in the crowds, Miller chose not to stand outside before sunrise in a long line. She said she began shopping around 9 a.m., adding she finds the crowds unappealing.
“That’s way too much,” Miller said.
Fenner said she usually shops on Black Friday “to get the good sales, after I read about the sales in the newspaper.”
The day after Thanksgiving gets its Black Friday name because it traditionally was a day when huge crowds would push stores into “the black” of profitability.
Freeville resident Brenda Chamberlain, with her family and friends, began their shopping like many others — during the early dawn. Hoping to secure a discounted laptop computer at Best Buy in Ithaca, Chamberlain and her family were outside the store by 1 a.m. They said they were unsuccessful because it was quickly sold out.
They were not the first ones to stand in line outside the store. Chamberlain said they saw several people camped out in tents overnight and said it was not a surprising sight.
“People are going to stand in line for three to four hours (in the cold) if they can save (hundreds of dollars),” she said.
Once she and her family finished buying what they needed in Ithaca, by about 10 a.m. they had driven to Cortlandville to take advantage of some discounts at Walmart, Kmart and several other stores.
A longtime Black Friday participant, Carl Jones of Marathon chose this year to wait until the crowds decreased instead of waiting in line before the stores opened.
Pushing a filled cart to his car shortly after 10 a.m. in the Walmart parking lot, Jones said he decided against coming early simply because none of the “target” items that are easily sold out were on his shopping list.
“Ultimately, what I did pick up was stuff I knew was going to be here, so I didn’t have to rush,” Jones said.
He said most of the items on his holiday list are easily found in malls at specialty stores, such as Journeys. Jones began his Black Friday shopping at 7:15 a.m., taking from Walmart various discounted items such as a digital picture frame, a Shop-Vac, and clothing.
Chamberlain said she has not participated in Black Friday shopping for the past several years, but said the crowds this year seemed smaller than what she remembered.
She recalled seeing more carts filled to the brim in years past, while this year she saw shoppers grabbing a few choice items and leaving. She said she thought today’s poor financial climate played a role in a somewhat lower Black Friday turnout.
“People don’t have the money to come out like they used to,” Chamberlain said.
Chamberlain’s daughter, Elizabeth Marshall of Freeville, said this was her first time taking part in Black Friday.
“Usually I’m too lazy to get out of bed,” she said, standing in the Walmart parking lot with toys for her 4-year-old daughter. She said she was spending about the same amount of money as usual and was heading for Kmart next.
Business seemed steady but slower at other area stores.
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