For the fourth year in a row, Brandi Mashtore, of the Town of Tonawanda, was the first person in line at a Target store for Black Friday. She arrived at 7:15 a.m. Thanksgiving, ready to buy an $85 Power Wheels Audi and a 32-inch TV for $99.
“I have to spoil my niece,” she said, hunkered down in a hoodie.
Once again, most retailers started their Black Friday events just after dinnertime on Thanksgiving. Shoppers lined up outside stores, some as early as Wednesday morning.
Even as they waited to get inside, some shoppers lamented the early start to Black Friday.
“I liked it better when they waited until after Thanksgiving. We liked to eat our turkey dinner and spend time with the family,” said Debbie Mardorf, of Toronto. “But we’ve got kids to buy for, so it’s just something you have to do.”
Some shoppers rearranged their holiday plans in order to partake in the festivities.
“I told everyone ‘Get here early because we’re eating at noon and then I’m out the door,’ ” said Raj Patel, of Williamsville. “They know I don’t play when it comes to my bargains.”
Others have made Thanksgiving Day shopping part of their family holiday.
“I guess it’s our new tradition,” said Yaneliz Tomasini, of Buffalo. “We come every year and spend time together.”
Ashley Hobbes, of North Tonawanda, said she feels sorry for store employees who have to work on the holiday instead of being home with their families. Retailers said they open early in response to consumer demand. Hobbes said she would rather wait until Friday, but saw no point in staying home on Thanksgiving.
“If I didn’t come today, it’s not like the stores are going to send all their workers home,” she said.
About 150 people had lined up outside a Best Buy by 4 p.m. Thursday. Still, crowds were thinner than they were when stores stayed closed until Black Friday.
“It seems like every year the crowds get smaller and smaller,” said Mike Rosario, of Buffalo.
That’s because the sales aren’t as good as they used to be, said Brandy Caradonna, of Toronto. She has been shopping on Black Friday for 19 years. “Flat-out, they’ve gotten worse,” she said. “No doubt about it.”
Those who did decide to line up outside stores on Thanksgiving had much milder weather than shoppers in years past. Black Friday die-hards have braved wind, rain and snow in previous years; many of them bringing portable heaters, tents and heavy sleeping bags to fight the elements. But this year, with a sunny 62 degrees, many shoppers were armed with nothing more than a coat and a folding chair.
“It was pretty nice for a change,” said Ashley Ponte, of Mississauga, Ont.
The kickoff to the holiday shopping season was dubbed Black Friday because it is the time of year retailers become profitable again, putting them back into “the black” after several months “in the red.” In 2015, stores are expected to make 19 percent of their total annual sales during the holiday season, according to the National Retail Federation.
Black Friday has lost some of its luster. Once a one-day extravaganza, it’s now a two-week marathon stretch of sales and hype. Consumers no longer feel the urgency to hit stores when they first open. Now, they can enjoy the same deals throughout the weekend or shop online from home without fighting the crowds.
In fact, 65 percent of shoppers believe that Black Friday is not as big a deal as it used to be, according to a survey from cash-back app Ibotta. The same survey showed that more than half of shoppers would do most of their shopping after Black Friday and that 49 percent expect deals to get better after Black Friday.
But those who showed up didn’t seem to mind the shorter lines.
“That’s less competition for me,” said Kirvin Guadalupe, of Buffalo.