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Early birds flock to Black Friday bargains
Retailers enjoy brisk business on 1st day of holiday season
Shoppers line up for bargains Friday morning at the Dress Up Boutique in downtown Gainesville. - photo by Tom Reed

While turkey remains a timeless Thanksgiving tradition in many households, so does the sport of Black Friday shopping for post-holiday deals and discounts.

And this year, many shoppers didn’t have time to digest their dinners before retailers were opening their doors for Black Friday sales. Stores began offering their special deals as early as 8 p.m. Thursday night to midnight Friday morning, a time that many stores believed would be more convenient than opening in the early morning hours.

“We did it to be competitive,” said Lisa Lassiter, regional store manager for Belk, of the store’s midnight opening Friday. “It allowed a different crowd of people to shop. We had lots of people out shopping at midnight, and the more traditional shopper in the morning around 7-8 a.m.”

Lassiter also said the Belk location at Lakeshore Mall in Gainesville “definitely had stronger traffic this year than in the past.”

“We think it’s going to be a really good holiday shopping season,” she said.

Although many stores chose to open midnight Friday or earlier, other retailers postponed their opening hours from those of years past. After several years of opening at 4 a.m., J.C. Penney stores didn’t open until 6 a.m. Friday.

“This is kind of a direct from our new CEO,” according to Lakeshore Mall’s J.C. Penney store leader, Paul Shires.

“We want to be fair and square to our customers and fair and square to our associates and allow them to be with their families.”

Despite a later opening, Shires said the store had seen a steady stream of shoppers since the morning and expects the trend to continue.

“We’re having a good day, and it’s going to be a good shopping season,” he said. “We had quite a few people outside when we opened, and as always, the customers are looking for good bargains, and that’s what we’re giving them. Customers like that; no hassle and great customer service.”

On the square in downtown Gainesville, approximately 50 shoppers lined up outside the door of Dress Up Boutique for deals on peacoats, flats, scarves and other merchandise.

“Within the first hour and a half, we doubled our week in sales,” said Hillary Harper, director of marketing and public relations for the boutique.

While the store opted to keep its normal hours Friday, Harper said shoppers were appreciative of having that time to sleep in and not feel they would miss out on the deals.

“A lot of people told us this was their first destination and the first place they wanted to come shop at,” Harper said.

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