Corridor Shoppers Get Early Black Friday Start On Thanksgiving

By Dave Franzman and Gregg Hennigan, Reporters

Hordes of shoppers descended on the Marion Menards store for the start of "Black Friday" shopping Friday, Nov. 29, 2013. (Dave Franzman/KCRG-TV9)

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By Richard Pratt

CEDAR RAPIDS/IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The sun wasn’t up yet, but the four women had been shopping long enough to have no idea what time it was.

Cindy Hermann of Muscatine was surprised to learn it was 5:45 a.m.

“Is it?” the 50-year-old said in the parking lot of the Coralville Wal-Mart Supercenter. “Is it really?”

You might forgive her confusion. Her Black Friday actually started at 10 o'clock Thursday night when she and the other three people in her shopping party left Muscatine.

They went straight to Tanger Factory Outlet Center in Williamsburg, then hit the Coralville Kohl’s – they considered the $3.99 pillows they found there the best deal so far – and then Wal-Mart. The cargo area of the Honda Pilot they were driving was filled with purchases.

They shopped for 12 hours Thanksgiving night and into the morning last year. They weren’t sure if they would match that mark this year.
“We haven’t really figured that out,” said Andrea Sprague, 40, of Muscatine. “We kind of go with the flow.”

Black Friday may have started earlier than ever on Thursday for a number of retailers. but some shoppers out early Friday morning said they preferred the “traditional” way of kicking off the shopping season on Friday.
Merchants at Lindale Mall said the crowds swarmed through at 8 p.m. Thursday when the mall opened. That’s the earliest opening ever for the start of Black Friday retailing there.

By 4 a.m. Friday, the mall had quieted down considerably and the early crowds had gone home. Andreas Chadwick, assistant manager at Fanzz, said he wasn’t sure starting four hours earlier than the year before brought in any extra business.

“I think it’s about the same as it was last year, I don’t think we gained anything from the extra time open,” Chadwick said.

Some shoppers may have hit the Thanksgiving door busters and then gone home for the evening planning to wake up early Friday morning and start again. But more than a few shoppers started shopping and kept shopping overnight.

Jessica Andersen and her family had an especially ambitious and sleep-deprived plan. They began at 4 p.m. Thanksgiving afternoon and were planning to shop continuously until Friday evening.

“We do it every year and it’s kind of fun. It’s kind of a girl’s night out and you get so tired you giggle about everything. It’s like being 12 years old and in middle school again,” Andersen said.

Some Corridor retailers stuck with a more traditional Black Friday plan and defied the holiday openings.

John Ryan, manager at the Marion Menards store, said he thought crowds out early lining up for the door buster specials were larger than ever this year, even though Menards didn’t open until 6 a.m. Friday.

The Wisconsin-based home improvement chain played up the “not open on Thanksgiving decision” in advertising.

Tamara Huckins, shopping early at Menards on Friday, said that decision was one reason she started her Black Friday shopping at Menards.

“Do you really think moving the openings earlier got them any more money? Or did it just get them the money earlier? That’s why everybody will come here,” Huckins said.

Huckins said she had seen some of the online postings about boycotting retailers who opening on Thanksgiving instead of Friday and agreed with the idea. But with only four shopping weekends instead of the normal five between Thanksgiving and Christmas, some merchants said the push to start Black Friday shopping earlier than ever was hard to resist.

That may have had an effect on Black Friday shopping. There were only about 30 vehicles in the Coralville Wal-Mart parking lot just before 6 a.m. Friday. And Coral Ridge Mall, where some stores opened Thursday night and most of the rest early Friday, was not busy a short while later. It started to pick up closer to 8 a.m.

Mike and Stacey Schropp of Tiffin said their wait in lines at Target and Scheels All Sports were shorter than a normal day. They shopped from 8 p.m. Thursday until 2 a.m. Friday, took a nap, and then started again at 5 a.m. They heard stores were really busy at 6 p.m. Thursday.

“It was not bad at all” later, said Stacey, 42.

A lot of shoppers, including Mike Schropp, 44, were wearing Iowa Hawkeyes apparel. The Iowa football team began play at Nebraska at 11 a.m. Friday. The Schropps said they would be done shopping by then.

Chris Hlas of Eau Claire, Wis., was in town visiting family and fit in some holiday shopping with his wife at Coral Ridge Mall. He wore a Hawkeyes shirt and said he planned to watch the game, but he was not 100 percent confident he’d catch all of it.

“We’ll make it home for the game at some point,” said Hlas, 35.

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