There were no officers’ stripes on Leonard McMinn’s jacket, no combat medals.
Make no mistake about it, though, the Mayfield man had Black Friday, the most dreaded shopping day of the year for some, down to a finely detailed military campaign.
“You survive this by just going with the wife,” McMinn said, tugging on a faded Tennessee Volunteers cap Friday morning at Old Navy in Towne East Square.
“You keep smiling. Keep the wife company and look for the deals as you walk along. If they’re meant for you to find, they’ll be there as you walk along.”
The early reports from many local retailers indicate that the deals were there, driven by a running — pun intended — start at midnight with some of the earliest Black Friday store openings in history, and the usual anecdotal reports of fights over the hottest electronics gifts.
Eagle readers reported huge crowds at Walmart at 21st and Maize, where parking was full, and Gordmans, where there were long lines for shopping carts.
“You know, we went to Menards and it wasn’t that bad, but then we went to Gordmans and there was a 2 1/2- to 3-hour wait”
McMinn paused for dramatic effect.
“To check out,” he said, snapping off the words. “We got our stuff and we had a lady standing with us who’d been there for two hours and she was not halfway through the line. It was crazy.”
Up all night?
Retailers like crazy. Jessica Sherwood, who manages the Towne East Old Navy, said the store expected five times the traffic Friday of an average Saturday. And with fleece flying out the door, she’s confident the final sales totals will be big.
Gwen Ottenberg’s Imagine That Toys, which didn’t open until 9:30, was on pace for another big day, she said.
Same story at Towne West, where mall spokeswoman Abby Marr said shoppers packed the facility for the 4 a.m. Friday opening.
“It was crazy from 4 to 6,” she said. “Some of those people, I think, are the people who’ve been up all day yesterday and hit the midnight openings.”
And the National Retail Federation reported Friday morning that the early morning shopping pattern was holding across the country.
Popular toys, electronics, apparel, DVDs and jewelry are among the top targets, retail federation president and CEO Matthew Shay said in a news briefing.
“Early morning openings appear to have been well worth it for both retailers and holiday shoppers, with many Americans believing that deals were too good to pass up regardless of who they were shopping for,” Shay said.
Several shoppers said they were headed to local retailers, but many were confounded by the shortage of small businesses open early Friday morning.
Ottenberg said she’s happy with regular business hours on Black Friday.
“As locals, we can take a stand and say, ‘Let’s enjoy the holidays as the holidays, spend them with your friends and family,’” she said. “The holiday isn’t about the best deal and the best item. It’s about spending time with family.”
By 8 a.m., some of the early risers at Towne East were wearing down.
“It’s a little bit hectic,” said Nicole Risley of Wichita. “We’re trying to hit the lull.”
Without total success, she said, describing her fellow shoppers as “rude.”
Others said Friday was one of the easiest post-Thanksgiving shopping days they’ve had.
“It hasn’t been too bad,” said Sheila Willard of Perryton, Texas. “We didn’t go out at midnight, so that probably explains that.”
Willard described Black Friday business in Wichita as “slow, slower than what we saw last year in Amarillo.”
The malls were pockmarked with men sitting wearily on a mall bench, or draped over a mall railing.
Brian Tichenor of Wichita rubbed his head in bemusement as the shoppers filed by in Towne West.
“It’s been pretty laid back,” he said, laughing. “But then, I’m not doing the shopping. I’m just hanging with my daughter, letting her do the shopping.”
That’s the first step toward surviving Black Friday: Let someone else shop. Step two?
“Patience,” Tichenor said. “That’s how you survive this. Just let go. And have patience.”
No patience needed from McMinn, who said he’s ready for the 2012 assault on Black Friday.
“We do this every year,” he said. “It’s pretty cool, actually, to see all of the people and getting out to get the deals.”