Sleep-deprived shoppers lined up at stores throughout the Central Coast early Friday hoping to grab big bargains on items such as computers, gaming systems and television sets.
Black Friday typically marks the official start of the holiday shopping season. However, this year buyers got a head start as some retailers, such as Wal-Mart, opened their doors Thanksgiving Day.
“This year it seems like we’ve had a lot more foot traffic. Our customer count seems to be higher,” said Courtney Howton, assistant general manager of the Walmart in Arroyo Grande.
According to the National Retail Federation, a fifth of all consumer purchases are made between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
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For some shoppers, Black Friday is as much of a tradition as Thanksgiving dinner and football on television.
“We’ve come out for the past few years now,” said Elwyn Littlefield of Paso Robles. He and his son, Richard, started shopping well before daylight, visiting a Walmart and two Target stores. “We started in Paso at 4 a.m. and worked our way down here (San Luis Obispo). It’s become tradition for us. My wife and daughter go one way and we go the other.”
The Littlefields said they saved about $300 by getting up early and participating in Black Friday. This year they spent more than they did last year on Black Friday. Expecting deep crowds, the Littlefields were surprised to encounter calm at the Target in San Luis Obispo.
“It’s worked out better this year. There are no lines,” Richard Littlefield said. “I’m not sure if people stayed home or came out earlier.”
Hundreds of shoppers lined up outside Best Buy in San Luis Obispo before it opened at midnight Friday. Store manager Kellie Adams said the first customer to get in line was there at 3 p.m. Thanksgiving Day.
“We opened at midnight and in the first hour about 800 people came through the store. Eight hundred easily,” Adams said. The line at one point stretched past several stores to Sears. “We let 20 people in and then took a one-minute break, then let another 20 people in. After about an hour of doing that, the line was still to Sears,” Adams said.
Televisions, Blu-ray players, Xbox game systems and personal computers were at the top of many consumers’ wish lists. Adams said Best Buy sold out of some of those items early.
Not all Black Friday shoppers were excited to be among the holiday gift-buying crowd. “It’s not one of my favorite things to do,” said Arroyo Grande resident Mike Dean. “I’m on a mission to help my wife out. She went to Santa Maria and I came here (the Walmart in Arroyo Grande) to get a PlayStation for my grandson.” Dean planned to spend less this year so he was willing to brave Black Friday if it meant saving some money.