Bargains bring first-time Black Friday shoppers out
The ailing economy pulled first-time Black Friday shoppers out of their beds before sunrise today, hoping to stretch their holiday budgets and save more money for any months during which they might be unemployed next year.
That’s why elementary school teacher Anne Knight of Medford was at Cambridgeside Galleria with her husband at 4 am.
“We usually don’t battle all this for deals – the long lines to get in and also to pay,” said Knight, 47. But the couple waited and waited at Sears, Best Buy and KB Toys because they had 15 nieces and nephews to shop for, plus they longed to save $600 on a 46-inch flatscreen television as a gift to themselves.
At Best Buy in the Square One Mall in Saugus, customers began lining up at 12 pm on Thanksgiving, but by the time doors opened at 5 am, the crowds were thinner than last year.
Nancy Monterros, of Lynn, waited since 12 am to make it inside and easily found the doorbuster deals she wanted, including an Xbox 360 and GPS. Venturing out at the crack of dawn has been a tradition for the last five years and she usually spends about $3,000. This year, she cut her budget to about $1,500.
A line of customers wrapped around Wal-Mart in Framingham until 5 am, when the store opened. It took 10 to 15 minutes for everyone to file into the store. Once inside, shoppers swamped the big box store's electronics section. Only a few browsed in other parts of the store, like home décor or sporting goods.
Frank Chiavarini, a landscaper from Hopkinton, was one of the first shoppers in and out of Wal-Mart. He bought a 32-inch Emerson flat screen, high-definition television for $388. The gift was a present for the whole family, he said.
Normally, the television would have cost $499, he said, making the purchase a no-brainer. "I saw it on the Internet last night and said 'I've got to get it,'" he said.
By 6 am at the Circuit City in Saugus, there was no line outside and a store employee at the front door said, "This is quiet. This is quiet."
At the nearby Target, Tracy Lamery, 20, of Malden scored one of the limited 26-inch Westinghouse flat-screen televisions for $299 during her first Black Friday outing.
Paul Cunningham, of Lynn, took a break in the kid's clothing section after finding one of the last Westinghouse televisions, which usually retail for more than $400. Target sold out within a half hour.
At the Natick Collection, the mall at 8 am was as busy as a regular Saturday afternoon. But store cashiers said that while plenty of people had come out for Black Friday, many were browsing and checking out prices rather than rushing to buy.
The high-end part of the mall anchored by Neiman Marcus was a ghost town, with few shoppers. A stone's throw from Neiman Marcus, Melvin Spaargaren, the manager of the McGregor clothing store, said it seemed there was a wall between customers and his wing of the mall. "There are problems in the economy, obviously," he said. "People are scared to come down to this area."
Turnout for Black Friday deals was modest at Patriot Place, a relatively new shopping complex in Foxborough, where only a handful of stores opened in the early morning hours. Many started at Circuit City, and worked their way to Staples, Old Navy and Reebok. Many other store fronts were dark, and the massive parking lot nearly empty.
More shoppers hit the Wrentham Village Premium Outlets, where store managers said the crowds were huge at midnight. By 6:40 a.m., a lull had hit and some shoppers found their way to benches where the rested surrounded by bags from Tommy Hilfiger, Ecko Unlimited and Nautica. Many were foreigners looking for deals made even better by a good exchange rate. Others wandered the outdoor shopping area with few or no bags, saying they'd just come to check out the scene.
"We came here yesterday on a shopping trip -- five women," said Natasha Ireland, a 26-year-old sales assistant from Ireland. "I got two pairs of Tommy jeans for $40. At home they'd be $150."
(By Nicole C. Wong, Jenn Abelson, and Erin Ailworth, Globe Staff; and Erich Schwartzel and John Dyer, Globe Correspondents)
For gift ideas and shopping tips, browse Boston.com's annual Gift Guide.