LIMA — Thanksgiving deals may have cut into Black Friday shopping, but plenty of Lima-area bargain hunters still woke up extra early to wait in line at a number of local retail outlets.
Under the shadow of darkness, anxious shoppers wearing heavy coats, gloves and hats clenched coffee cups as they waited patiently for the stores to open. While Toys R Us and roughly half the stores in the Lima Mall stayed open all night, retail outlets that were closed on Thanksgiving opened their doors between 3 and 6 a.m. Friday.
One of the busiest stores Friday morning was Menards, which opened at 6 a.m. The parking lot was so full by the time it opened that individuals began parking in the grass or across the street at Mellow Mushroom. Store manager Justin Bellows estimated that the line to get in was about 500 feet long. While the line dissipated shortly after 6 a.m., the store continued to buzz with activity through mid-morning.
“We’re three hours in and the registers are still sizzling, so that’s good to see,” Bellows said as he peered at the long lines of shoppers waiting to checkout. “We’ve got 17 registers open, and every single one of them has had long lines ever since we opened the doors.”
By 9:30 a.m., Bellows said they already surpassed 2,500 transactions. He said Menards usually sees about 2,000 transactions on a normal day.
“If you figure an average of three people per transaction, we’re looking at probably 20,000 people through the building today,” he said, adding that all 175 Menards employees were on staff Friday to handle the rush.
Menards shopper Mike Miller, of Lima, purchased more than a dozen items at the store Friday morning. He said he waited to arrive at the store until 7 a.m., as we wanted to avoid the early morning rush.
Miller said he participates in Black Friday shopping each year, and he views Menards as a “one-stop shop” for Christmas gifts.
“They had good deals on a lot of stuff, so I got a few things for me but mostly Christmas gifts for the rest of the family,” Miller said.
Miller’s Black Friday experience seemed to go off without a hitch, as he said he saved $500 and did not have any problems with frenzied crowds.
“It was full but the people weren’t too crazy,” he said. “It was very civil today, so I appreciated that.”
Elida resident Cheri Zuber, who was with her daughter, Laura Hertenstein, of St. Marys, said they have been Black Friday shopping for 14 years and have only had one incident. Zuber said it happened several years ago at Meijer. She said she was knocked over while trying to grab a video game, which caused her glasses to fall on the floor.
“Other than that one time, we’ve never had a bad experience,” said Hertenstein, who was shopping for a basketball at MC Sports in the Lima Mall. “We’ve had good experiences, and everybody’s been friendly. We love it.”
The mother-daughter team said they view Black Friday shopping as a chance to bond. Hertenstein said she’s even gotten her children involved in the annual shopping trips.
“Last year I brought my 13-year-old for the first time, and this year I brought my 12-year-old,” she said. “We try to bring one of the kids with us every time.”
Dennis Williams, who owns the MC Sports store at the mall, said the crowd was steady since they opened at 6 a.m., but it paled in comparison to Thursday night.
“Last night was extremely busy,” Williams said. “I think a lot of people probably slept in this morning and we will see a boost in sales come this afternoon.”
Sears store manager Jessica Hammons said they experienced a similar Thanksgiving rush that tailed off Friday morning.
“Last night the crowd was significantly larger and the morning was a little bit slower than we hoped,” said Hammons, who added that online shopping also contributed to thinner crowds. “But it’s starting to pick up now.”
Despite a somewhat lackluster morning crowd, Hammons said creating a two-day Black Friday event has made the shopping experience more convenient.
“I think it’s beneficial for the shoppers that want to shop on Thanksgiving Day, and for those who want the Black Friday deals in the morning,” she said. “We’re here either way.”
Reach John Bush at 567-242-0456 or on Twitter @bush_lima