Black Friday at Wheaton Mall Means Earlier Openings
Mall anchors opened at 4 a.m with lots of crowds and lines but no crush.
The 4 a.m. crowd wasn't a fluke. In the early afternoon, after many of the special deals had expired or sold out, the mall was still packed with shoppers.
"Everybody's in electronics," said a Target employee rushing by. Indeed, even without the TVs to sell, a short line waited to buy other items like cameras and gaming systems.
The story was similar at the Best Buy, where many shoppers browsed through the store. However, many left with smaller items like video games and accessories, DVDs or hard drives. A curious set of arrows stretched down each aisle of the appliance section. This was the demarcated line for purchases this morning.
The Einstein High School After-Prom Committee was stationed midway through the mall, offering to gift wrap newly bought presents to raise money for their scheduled events. While at 1 p.m., the mall was packed with people, only 16 customers had gotten their gifts wrapped.
"It's a lull right now," said committee member Janis Landfair, adding that they did not expect a rush until the week before Christmas at the gift wrap station.
Original post, 6:20 a.m.
The Friday after Thanksgiving started early, very early at the Westfield Wheaton mall.
"We could have opened the whole thing at 4 a.m.," said Matt Barry, general manager.
The mall itself opened at 5 a.m., an hour earlier than last year. According to Barry, opening up the rest of the mall was a response to the anchor stores all deciding to open earlier at 4 a.m., including Macy's. Two stores, Old Navy and Children's Place, rolled up their gates at midnight.
As shoppers streamed into — and then out of — Target, some stores in the mall opened earlier than scheduled. Game Stop, a few doors down from the Target, told a growing line at 4:20 a.m. that they would be open in "two or three minutes."
Lee Janos of Kensington was sipping coffee out of a thermos at the end of the Game Stop line.
"I stayed up late and got up early." Janos said. "That was a bad idea."
Janos was waiting at Game Stop for something very specific: the deals on Nintendo DS games, specifically the Call to Duty series. It's not a yearly thing for his family, Janos said, but once in a while a deal in a circular will stand out and make the early morning worth it.
Target Leads Mall, Sells Out Biggest Deals Early
"We never slept actually," said Kony Serrano of Washington, D.C. "We got here at 12:30 a.m., and midway through we took a nap in the car."
Serrano was waiting, midline, on the north entrance to Target right before 4 a.m. Target had let a portion of the line inside, but the remaining stretch on the north side still lined up past the door to Macy's.
At 4 a.m., the doors opened and people rushed in, although without any shoving or pushing. Inside, the scene was controlled chaos, with almost every shopping cart passing by holding a large flat screen TV.
One couple carting a 40-inch HD flat screen said they were spending $399 on the deal, but that earlier store employees had handed out 100 leaflets to people in line, good for a different brand of a 40-inch flat screen for $298.
By 4:15 a.m., the call came over the loud speaker: "All the TV deals are completely sold out."
Shoppers focused on the electronics, cookware and the children's clothing section. The sections for dog food, holiday cards and food were empty.
Marketing manager Sidney Woods, standing outside the Target right after the announcement, said that the "doorbuster" deals at Target would indirectly help the mall's sales by bringing people in the door.
"We expect a tremendous increase over last year," Woods said about traffic and sales in the mall.
While many Target shoppers went back into the mall, not everyone was staying. Sara and Virginia, two shoppers who declined to give their last names, were leaving Target at 4:45 a.m. to go home to Silver Spring, their main purchases — a camera at half off and a drum set — made for the day.
"It's bittersweet," Sara said of her first Black Friday shopping experience, even though she was successful. "It was chaos."
Behind them, a woman stuffed one of coveted 40-inch TVs into the trunk of a cab.
'They're Still Expensive'
Ramon Ortiz came all the way from Gettysburg, Penn., but wasn't expecting a deal on the special sneaker release at Foot Locker this morning.
"They're still expensive," Ortiz said, adding that he and his friends had woken up early specifically for this trip.
The Foot Locker was open around 4 a.m. but was only letting one or two people into the store at a time, each time the manager checking a list of names and then slowing rolling up the gate for the customers to pass.
First to Open, First Customers
"Cómo estás? Bienvenido a Old Navy!"
Herman Romero was still cheery at 4:30 a.m., greeting people as they walked into Old Navy, even though the store had been open for four hours.
"There was a big rush until about 1 a.m." Romero said.
Old Navy and The Children's Place were the first stores in the mall to open. Manager Lillian Chui said there were about 70 people waiting at midnight.
"People aren't coming in for one particular thing," she said. "They just know everything is on sale."
The Children's Place, offering 30 percent off the whole store until noon today, didn't have a line, but according to a front-of-store employee, had a steady stream of people for the first hour.
Few Food Court Options for Early Shoppers
If you went to the mall early this morning, hopefully you packed a snack. Inside the mall, the only restaurant open was McDonald's, although the fast-food chain was doing a brisk business for 4 in the morning. One shopper approached the Dunkin' Donuts kiosk in the food court, and realizing it was closed, slumped and turned around.
Best Buy Thanksgiving
Bruna Borges of Wheaton and her family may have everyone beat. They started camping out at the Best Buy on Georgia Avenue at 12 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day.
"We had Thanksgiving dinner out here," Borges said.
But the Borgeses were ready, with two collapsible chairs and several blankets for all three of them. At 11:30 p.m., they still seemed moderately awake and were first in line.
"Last year we did the same thing," she said. "There was a bit of pushing."
Laptops were the item in demand at the Best Buy line, which by quarter to midnight had gone around nearly two sides of the big box store.
The electronics retailer opened at 5 a.m. but handed out tickets for entry at 3 a.m.
Pamela Asanti, in the middle of the line, was looking forward to a full day of shopping after her first stop at the Best Buy.
"I'll go to other stores afterward," she said.