Thousands of Georgians wrapped up their Thanksgiving meal and then hit the stores as Black Friday bled into Thursday evening this year.
Shoppers lined up well before 6 p.m. Thursday at the Mount Berry Square Mall in Rome for deals on footwear, more than two hours before retailers opened their doors.
“I pulled up to the mall around 6 p.m., and when I pulled up, Belk already had a line going around the building,” said Tricia Dillard, the mall’s operations and marketing manager. “So they were here before I was here.”
Dillard said the Belk store was selling $19.99 boots and giving away gift cards to the first 250 or so shoppers. She said the mall’s four “anchor” stores have never opened at the same time for holiday shoppers. Thursday night, they did.
“This year, they all decided to open at 8 p.m., so I felt that that definitely improved the entire mall. Ninety percent of our [other] national stores opened at 8 p.m. with them,” Dillard said. “That definitely kept people in the mall because there was plenty of shopping opportunity within the mall.”
Dillard said shoppers seemed to have more stamina this year: the mall was packed until about 2 a.m. The crowds thinned about that same time in 2012, but the mall didn’t open until midnight.
Some shoppers stayed out all night snagging bargains.
In Alpharetta, Jessica Astalos, 20, was resting in the North Point Mall’s food court at 5:30 a.m. The Milton woman had left home around 11:30 p.m. and shopped all night.
Tifton resident Curtis Akins, 51, said he thinks Black Friday might eventually end because it's taking over from the traditional Thanksgiving celebration.
At the other end of the state, downtown Valdosta had a quiet morning.
“We tried the first year we were here to be open early on Black Friday,” said Kim Newman, owner of City Market. “We found out real quick that our customers know what we sell, they come here to get what we sell, and they hit all the other places early and then they come when we’re open.”
City Market is reminiscent of the department stores that used to anchor many of America’s downtowns. It sells women’s and baby clothes, home décor, gifts and Tom’s footwear, among other items.
Newman offered 50 percent off sales, $10 racks and a discount on each customer’s entire purchase. But she said the Tom’s sale was among the biggest draws.
“The season Tom’s shoes will go on sale today and we’ll blow them out like crazy,” she said.
Newman said she will carry over her Black Friday deals to Small Business Saturday this weekend. She said the focus on shopping locally the Saturday after Thanksgiving noticeably boosted her sales last year but her holiday season is more than two days of deep discounts.
“Truthfully, our [holiday] increase starts the first of November and will ride all the way through consistently [to December 30], which, to me, consistent sales are better than one lump sum,” Newman said.