Black Friday pre-dawn shopping is as traditional as Thanksgiving turkey and gravy to many area residents. For others it's the almighty bottom-line savings that compel them from heated homes into long lines outside and inside stores.
Kim Dang, of Carson City, is one of the most motivated morning Wal-Mart shoppers. She was second in line at 3:10 a.m. for the $398 desktop computer. Her sister, Jeannie York, of Dayton, was first.
"It's totally a tradition," she says while waiting at the head of a line composed of about 30 people, only the next six will get the desktop computer. "I work for the hospital and they all want to listen to my stories about how rude people get. But so far people have been nice and smiling. No pushing. It will get pushy later."
Last year, shoppers spent $22.8 billion the weekend after Thanksgiving, and current estimates indicate that consumers might spend even more this year, according to the National Retail Federation.
A Wal-Mart employee announces that they have nine minutes left before the official opening of the 5 a.m. blitz. The employee's voice is a bit shaky. She asks Dang and York to make sure the line stays in order and no one butts in. Shopping stragglers peek over shoulders and query about the discounted computers.
Dang tells them that the line starts at the other end, but that they probably won't be leaving with one of the HP Pavilion Desktop Personal Computers.
York and Dang have a strategy. Next it's Target then Best Buy and then breakfast. They'll celebrate their shopping victories with a Bloody Mary.
Shane Deveraux, who works for the city, is the cut-off for the computers. Anyone behind him is out of luck. He really wanted the discounted laptop, but that line was too long for him.
"This is something I did on a whim," he says. "I had no idea I'd be in line." He holds up a promotional flyer that he picked up in Wal-Mart last week. "I figured they'd have 100 in stock, not 15."
Friday is the day when many national retailers' accounting ledgers enter into the black for the first time and they do it by getting people into the door with "blitz specials," such as a $398 laptop computer. But those specials are limited to the first 15 people in line, which caused some frustration with Wal-Mart shoppers.
"The laptop is for my granddaughter," said Colleen Dalton, who believes that she is no. 15 in line. "If I don't get it I'm going to be pissed."
And she is. An employee announces that the laptops are sold out at 5:13 a.m. The last two people put the laptop on layaway, which provokes some grumbling from shoppers who overhear.
Wal-Mart at 5 o'clock in the morning resembles a busy metropolis. About 90 percent of the population is in gridlock in the electronics department, the rest are commuting to and fro from the gridlock. Christine Ostler, of Carson City, is navigating a large 45-inch rectangular box through the mass. She is one of the few who snatched up a 42-inch Viore plasma screen TV.
"I'm here for the good deals," she says. "I have a plasma TV for $1,000, a camcorder for $250 and a DVD/VHS for $58."
This comes despite predications from the International Council of Shopping Centers that Wal-Mart will be a top shopping destination for apparel, furnishings and jewelry, rather than electronics.
According to a survey conducted by an investment banking firm, 54 percent of 848 surveyed said they plan to shop for electronics at Best Buy. Amazon.Com was the choice of 58.4 percent of respondents for books, music and videos.
The beauty and personal care gift category will be ruled by Bath & Body Works, which took 51 percent. Victoria's Secret was preferred by about 30 percent of respondents.
At another Carson City retailer, a group of about 15 women cluster around the doors, braving impending rain for the sake of a few sales.
Minda Goss, of Gardnerville, has been in line in front of Gottschalks since 5:15 a.m.
"Only when something's good," she says, then holds up the ad for a heart-shaped necklace. "It's $8. Regular it's $60."
JC Penney's morning crowd is more spread out and subdued compared to the Wal-Marters.
Samantha Thurm and Cathie Jorgenson, both of Douglas County, are hidden behind their eight full shopping bags. This is their first time out for Black Friday.
"We wanted to see what all the hoopla was about," says Thurm, a housewife.
"I saved $166.64 on clothes and I spent $155.45," says Jorgenson.
"I saved $175," says Thurm. "My original bill was $333."
The line at Best Buy in Douglas County is so long that it loops through the entire store like a horseshoe.
The wait: 25 minutes. The number of people in line at 6:20 a.m.: 110. The environment: some stand in silence, others merrily discussed ways they could make the line move faster. Perhaps a woman going into labor?
The savings: Danette Sheldon, of Carson City, is plunking down a couple thousand for three laptops, $499 each, a $399 desktop computer, and other small electronics, such as a video game console and a car stereo. She estimates her savings on this excursion, which started at 3:30 a.m. will be $3,000 to $4,000.
- Contact reporter Becky Bosshart at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1212.
Retail experts promoted Black Friday 2005 as an economic harbinger. They call it the earliest and most promoted day after Thanksgiving in history. Stores opened earlier and offered attractive sales. The president and chief executive officer of the National Retail Federation said stores offered savings to ensure they were part of the holiday hype.
The projected increase in holiday sales this year over last: 6 percent
Estimated revenues: $439.5 billion
How much a consumer is expected to spend this year on gifts, decorations, cards, candy and food: $738.11
Americans are expected to spend overall: $440 billion
Source: National Retail Federation