Juneau shoppers turn out for Black Friday deals

Posted: Sunday, November 28, 2010

Where there are bargains to be had, lines and crowds become a common sight in the early morning after Thanksgiving, and Friday was no exception.

Stores all over town drew crowds before the doors were even open. Those that run many of these stores say this year's crowds have only grown bigger than those in years past.

Take Fred Meyer. Store manager Jamie San Miguel said there must have been around 200 people waiting outside when the doors opened at 5 a.m., with lines extending all the way around to the pharmacy.

"I think it was significantly more than last year," Miguel said, referring to the size of the crowd. "We're expecting to do a lot better than we did last year."

Once inside, the crowds remained and didn't slow down until about noon. Miguel said the store has 26 registers and even with all open, some lines remained between 10 and 12 people long.

He said the home, electronics and apparel departments were the busiest, with many rushing for the advertised sale items. He said three such items even sold out, like a certain models of Blu-ray players, microplush blankets and 4 GB Xbox 360s.

Miguel said socks are another popular draw every Christmas shopping season. The store set out bins full of socks down the corridor just for this.

He said many customers were complimentary that many of the advertised sale products were kept in stock. He said those items that did run out didn't do so until late in the rush.

"I'm pretty proud of my associates. They were on time and ready to work and they rocked all day long," said Miguel.

Miguel said Fred Meyer will have extended hours again, closing late during Christmas week.

Meanwhile, crowds over at Walmart were big as well, but never lined up outside. They didn't have to. While operating hours usually end at midnight, Walmart never closed on Thanksgiving Day, making this year the first time this store has stayed open 24 hours.

"We're glad we're able to try something new this year, and we appreciate everybody coming out to shop with us," Abernathy said.

Overnight shopping was welcomed by the customers. Store manager Chris Abernathy said it was the busiest he'd ever seen the place, and it stayed that way through the next morning.

The customers' reception was evidenced by the check-out lines extending halfway into the store, even with most registers open.

One such shopper was Ericka Love. Her party consisted of four carts full of gifts for two families. They were shopping around 1 a.m., which she said was a good option for Black Friday sales.

"If we'd waited for tomorrow, everything would be gone," she said. She cited a particular tent which, even at that late hour, was selling fast and had already been restocked.

Abernathy said TVs and laptops were among the most popular items that night.

He said the company wanted to do something different for Black Friday and decided to remain open throughout the night.

He said finding personnel to work the hours was no problem, and many volunteered.

"They were excited. They thought it was something different," he said. "They thought it would help business out."

Some of Juneau's smaller stores proved to be just as busy. In the Nugget Mall, Nugget Alaskan Outfitter experienced its own lines, which owner Ron Flint and associate Erik Anderson said sometimes extended as far as 30 feet. They said there were cycles of crowd bursts starting at 9 a.m.

Flint said this year's Black Friday was pretty comparable to last year in both customers and hot items. He said winter boots and goggles were in demand while smart wool socks and certain women's fleeces sold out.

He said the first 100 people in the mall got $5 coupons, and more than half of those coupons were redeemed there.

The store opened at 7 a.m. Friday, and Flint said it will also be extending hours again midway through December.

"Just like Thanksgiving we got some leftovers and going to keep working on them until they're gone," said Flint.

Nearby, Jo-Ann Fabrics opened at 6 a.m. Manager Sandy Demmert said people were already lined up then. She said cars were in the parking lot at 5:30 a.m.

She said business really picked up around 10 a.m. and this year was a little bit busier than last.

The downtown area had some shoppers, but was not as overwhelmed as other areas of town. Danny Peterson had worked at Hearthside Books since opening and said it didn't see much in the way of customers until around 2:30 p.m. He said there were a few crowds after that, and many of those people may have been around for the nearby Public Market. He said many went to the store to purchase tickets for King Island Christmas.

Retail operations manger Damien Horvath of the Alaskan Brewing Depot said the customer inflow was pretty steady, with the busiest times being between 10 a.m. and noon.

He said many local customers who had said they would do their Christmas shopping there made good on that word during Black Friday.

• Contact reporter Jonathan Grass at 523-2276 or at jonathan.grass@juneauempire.com.

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