Lynette Lewis, of Buffalo, and her namesake niece did not have to worry about missing Thanksgiving dinner Thursday as the pair occupied parallel parking spaces in separate SUVs in the Target lot off Walden Avenue in Cheektowaga.
"I met at her house at 9 o'clock this morning and we ate Thanksgiving dinner," said the younger Lynette Lewis.
The Lewises were among about two dozen hardcore Black Friday shoppers already camped out at Target three hours before the department store opened its doors.
Some of the bargain hunters were already queued up inside a metal barricade outside the store. Others stayed inside their vehicles to avoid the chilly air after having earlier made arrangements to save their prime places in line with stand-in props — such as lawn chairs and blankets draped over the barricade railing.
The Lewises, aunt and niece, were parked, with their vehicles' motors running, in opposite directions so they could talk directly to each other from their mutual driver's side windows and strategize, as they both were ready to take on some serious business in a few hours.
"This is like our Olympics," said the younger Lewis, who also lives in Buffalo. "You know, we train all year for this. It's not like a spur-of-the-moment thing."
According to the National Retail Federation, 69 percent of Americans were anticipated to take part in the biggest shopping weekend of the year, including Thanksgiving Day, Black Friday, and Small Business Saturday and Sunday. That's an estimated 164 million people physically scanning aisles, rummaging through racks and feeling through cubby holes at malls, big retail chain stores and neighborhood niche stores around the country.
Of those, 20 percent planned to interrupt or forego sumptuous Thanksgiving repasts to just shop.
"It's time to replace the old electronics, so I'm getting on the big ticket items, TV, new console," said Jim Trevena of Cheektowaga, as he stood third in line outside the Cheektowaga Target store.
"Walmart started this having Black Friday on Thursday. They started a trend. Now everyone's doing it," Trevena said.
For the Lewises, it's an adrenaline rush scoping out the big bargains — which generally takes place long before they even hit the stores.
"It's exciting, because there are some decent bargains out," said the elder Lynette Lewis, who confessed to being a seasoned veteran when it comes to Thanksgiving Day Black Friday shopping.
"Normally, I'm out looking for televisions, but I have enough of them now," she said.
Rich Kowalski, of South Buffalo, is not normally that big into shopping, but he was going for what Lynette Lewis was seeking to avoid in her own Black Friday hunt.
"Today, I'm going for the big 55-inch TV — in and out. I'm not buying anything else. It's a heck of a deal, even though I have no use for it. None at all. I have six flat screens already. The only room I don't have one in is the bathroom. That's because my wife won't let me do it," Kowalski said.
Electronic gadgets tend to be the big movers with the some of the steepest discounts for Thanksgiving weekend shoppers, even those not looking for exceptionally large flat-screen TVs.
"I want that Amazon Fire Stick for the TV," said the older Lynette Lewis. "They also have a nice set of pots and pans that's normally $200 on sale for $50."
After building up her Christmas club account throughout the year, Lewis' niece said she planned to stock up on Christmas toys for her young children and other gifts.
"We've got two cars because we need space for all the bags," said the younger Lewis.
Not far away, at the neighboring Walden Galleria mall, parking lots in front of Best Buy, J.C. Penney and other retail venues at the mall were already filling up with cars — many bearing license plates from across the international border.
Mark Ferreria, of Toronto, said his country already celebrated Thanksgiving in October. He crossed the bridge into the United States to do a little Christmas shopping and take advantage of the local Black Friday deals — as he did the year before at the Galleria.
"We're just looking to get the Christmas list started for the kids," Ferreria said.
Kathy Hudson, also from Toronto, crossed the border with her daughter and two sisters-in-law.
"We're down here for the bargains. We scored big time, and this is only our first store," Hudson said.
While interrupting his Thanksgiving meal for some deep retail discounts is not an annual part of the holiday season for Cheektowaga's Trevena, he can see why it's popular with many.
"This is like Christmas for working people. It's the one time of year we're cut a break," Trevena said.
"You save $100 off something, it's worth it," he added.