LUMBERTON — With 30 minutes to go before the doors opened at the Belk store in Biggs Park Mall for its annual gift card giveaway, Starlett Rolland sang gospel songs to entertain the crowd and pass the time.
“We sing every day,” Rolland said as she laughed with the crowd.
Rolland, her sister Katrena Smith and their mother, Clarethe Smith, finished up their turkey dinner at noon to make it to the early Black Friday event that began at 4 p.m. Thanksgiving Day and ended up at the front of a line of more than 200 people.
“This is my first,” Rolland said about going to Black Friday sales. “I heard about it from a lady that goes to aerobics class. I’m here for that $1,000 gift card.”
While in line, Rolland and her family connected with others who had been waiting, such as Black Friday veteran Wanda Hammonds.
“Me and my husband have been doing this for about 10 years when they were having it at night,” Hammonds said.
J.C. Penney, also at the mall, was one of the first stores in Lumberton to start its doorbuster sales at 2 p.m. on Thursday.
Betty Johnson, a department supervisor, has been working with the store for 27 years and still gets excited about Black Friday, dubbed that because it is supposedly when retail stores start making their profit for the year. This year will be marked down as another good year, she said.
“We had a great day in sales,” Johnson said. “I think we had about 500 people standing in line.”
Kitchen appliances were the top sellers this year, but the toys, clothes and jewelry did well, too, she said. At the doorbuster sale, the store gave out $100 and $500 coupons.
“One lady got a $100 coupon and we were all cheering for her,” she said.
The store will be giving out $10-off coupons beginning at 8 a.m. today.
While national retail stores were starting their Black Friday sales on Thanksgiving Day, locally owned stores stuck with tradition and opened their doors on Friday.
Sisters’ Boutique, at 4533 Fayetteville Road in Lumberton, had a successful kickoff to its Black Friday sales. About 40 cars filled with customers were outside Friday morning as the store’s doors were opened.
“We had a normal week’s worth of customers [Friday] morning,” said Frank Evans, a boutique employee. “We’re doing 50 percent off pretty much store-wide on Friday and Saturday.”
Girlees and Brothers Too, at 2100 N. Walnut St. in Lumberton, was fully transformed for the holiday season on Friday morning. Christmas decorations and apparel were on display throughout the store. Several different sales were in effect throughout the day, while others were activated intermittently.
“It changes every two hours,” said Jennifer Hickman, store owner.
At Booty Brothers Western Store, 2470 Capuano St., visitors flowed in off Interstate 95 to check out the shop’s discounted selection of boots.
“It’s been pretty steady,” said Lory Rawlinson, store owner.
Many of the store’s customers drive in from the Fayetteville area, he said.
For the 11th year in a row, gift cards remain the most requested wish-list item, but will be the second most purchased gift item behind clothing and accessories, according to the N.C. Retail Merchants Association. Books, music, movies and video games also are popular items on shopping lists this year.
Andy Ellen, association president and general counsel, urged consumers to shop locally for those gift cards and other wish-list items.
“I hope North Carolina consumers will support the local businesses that support what they care about in their community – their schools, their youth organizations, their Food Banks, and employing their neighbors,” Ellen said. “These are the brick and mortar stores, both independent and chain, who are ingrained in every community across the state who, along with employing one out of every four North Carolinians and collecting the sales taxes that fund our roads and schools, also sponsor the little league team, high school band and school spirit night.”
Black Friday has morphed from a single day when people got up early to score doorbusters into a whole season of deals, so shoppers may feel less need to be out. Some love the excitement, even if they’ve already done some of their shopping online.
Friends Yeshica Jeffers and Stacey Rhodes-Sofer hit a Walmart in suburban Albany, New York, early Friday.
“We always do it. It’s a tradition,” said Jeffers, the mother of four children, including twin 7-year-old girls. “It’s fun. It used to be a lot more fun before stores started opening on Thanksgiving.”
The shift to online buying will be a factor as industry analysts watch closely at how the nation’s malls are faring for the start of the holiday shopping season. The Mall of America in Minnesota says that 2,500 people were in line at the 5 a.m. opening Friday, in line with a year ago. Shoppers started queuing up as early as 5:45 p.m. on Thanksgiving.
Jill Renslow, Mall of America’s executive vice president of business development, said that stores like Nordstrom, Macy’s and Best Buy were crowded. She said the items that caught shoppers’ attention included were voice-activated devices like Amazon Echo, nostalgic toys, clothing and shoes.
With the jobless rate at a 17-year-low of 4.1 percent and consumer confidence stronger than a year ago, analysts project healthy sales increases for November and December. The National Retail Federation trade group expects sales for that period to at least match last year’s rise of 3.6 percent and estimates online spending and other non-store sales will rise 11 to 15 percent.
Analysts at Bain say Amazon is expected to take half of the holiday season’s sales growth. And Amazon is the top destination for people to begin holiday shopping, according to a September study by market research firm NPD Group.
Tomeka Sinclair can be reached at 910-416-5865 or [email protected] Reach Brandon Tester by calling 910-816-1989 or on Twitter at @Tester_Brandon. The Associated Press contributed to this report.