With more stores opening their doors for special deals on Thanksgiving Day, the crowds of shoppers on Black Friday seemed thinner than in past years.
Stores such as Wal-Mart, Target and Kohl’s and Towne West Square and Towne East Square malls opened through Thanksgiving night, and the throngs looking for bargains were more dispersed.
Meanwhile, stores that opened Thursday night said they saw bigger crowds than they did last year; 2012 was the start for many retailers of the move to start offering holiday sales on Thanksgiving Day, rather than waiting for Friday.
Among the shoppers who waited for the more traditional kickoff for holiday sales were Sami and Billi Mowbray and Sandy Clark. They drove into Wichita from McPherson for their Black Friday shopping, arriving about 3 a.m. They estimated they would spend about $1,000 on Black Friday shopping.
They’ve been shopping on the Friday after Thanksgiving for 10 years, and they said the crowds this year weren’t nearly what they were in years past.
“It seems like it’s more spread out,” said Billi Mowbray during a breakfast break at the Towne East Square food court. “We’ve had good luck this year getting what we wanted.”
Despite all the hype about the deals on Black Thursday, the three women say they don’t ever plan on shopping Thanksgiving Day.
“We prefer to wait and let people have a Thanksgiving,” Mowbray said. “I’d have to want something really bad to go” shopping on Thanksgiving.
Also at Towne East, John and Janice McDaniel of Wellington said they planned to do most of their Christmas shopping on Friday. They planned to spend at least $500 and were waiting for Von Maur to open at 9 a.m. Friday.
Menards was the most crowded place they had been Friday morning, said John McDaniel, who said the bargains at Menards were always enticing.
Jenn Siegenthaler of Wichita said she went to Menards three separate times Friday morning after it opened at 6 a.m. She was one of the first people in line at 4:30 a.m., she said.
“Their ad was awesome, and they were so organized,” Siegenthaler said. “They had maps that said where stuff was and it was actually there. For Black Friday shopping, they did an excellent job. I was happy with everything.”
She already plans to come back to Menards next year.
Willow Barrett of Wichita went to Michael’s in NewMarket Square on Friday morning for half-price Christmas decorations. Barrett said she did some online shopping and will probably do more since most of the deals in store can also be found online.
“I’m not a big fan of standing in lines,” she said.
There were more than 1,500 people waiting outside Cabela’s, 2427 N. Greenwich Road, when it opened at 5 a.m. Friday, said Brad Harting, the local Cabela’s marketing manager. Harting said more than $8,700 was given away in gift cards and prizes to the first 600 people in line.
“The crowd control was incredible, and I think that has a lot to do with our customers who have a lot of respect for each other,” Harting said. “I heard some of them sharing hunting and fishing stories while they were waiting, and it’s like a big family or community coming together.”
The first people started lining up at 1:30 a.m. Thursday, Harting said.
“They had a tent. We had people with generators, with propane heaters and everything,” Hartin said. “It’s kind of cool to see the Cabelas’s customers camp out because they camp out a lot. They’re prepared with all of their gear and are used to weather like this.”
Harting said Cabela’s is dedicated to having employees spend Thanksgiving with family and not working.
“I think our customers appreciate that, too, and I think they respect that we’re not open on Thanksgiving,” he said.
Menards has the same philosophy, said west-side store manager Mike Anderson.
The store opened at 6 a.m. Friday for a six-hour sale. Anderson estimated about 500 people were in line.
“We had a really good turnout,” Anderson said. “We have a broad spectrum of things, and there’s something for everybody. We have electronics, tools, toys and all of those things. ... I think we still get really good crowds doing what we’ve been doing and that’s the feedback from people we’ve been hearing in town.”
Among the stores that have made the move to a Thursday opening of holiday sales is Wal-Mart. According to a Friday morning news release from Wal-Mart, the company’s stores across the country processed more than 10 million register transactions from 6 to 10 p.m. Thanksgiving Day.
Wal-Mart was predicting significantly higher sales for Thursday than on Thanksgiving Day 2012, when it also offered deals, but not until later in the night.