Shoppers set up early for TVs

Chris Willard’s quest on Black Friday started at 4 p.m. on Wednesday outside the Best Buy in Hickory.

Arriving to a half-empty parking lot and sidewalks free of shoppers, Willard sat down next to a sign outside Best Buy that read, “Line Starts Here.”

He was the first in line.

“As soon as I got off work, I came up here,” said Willard, a Taylorsville native. “When I saw there was no one here, I didn’t even think twice to start waiting."

For the next 32 hours that included near-freezing overnight temperatures, almost no sleep and a growing crowd, Willard waited.

When the doors to Best Buy finally flung open at 12 a.m. Friday, Willard was the first inside the store. He was the “door buster.”

“I’m going to save about $600 for the things I’m getting,” said Willard, who purchased a 42-inch Sharp television for $200, among other items.

“That’s worth all of this to me."

While Willard was in a select group of sale seekers to bust through Black Friday doors first, he was one of hundreds at Best Buy and millions across the nation to embark early on the biggest sales day of the year.

Best Buy, which attracted lingering crowds days before opening its doors Friday, offered some of the biggest, and most advertised, savings deals this year. In addition to selling the discounted 42-inch Sharp televisions — normally priced about $500-$700 — Best Buy also promoted deals like a blue-ray player for $40, select video games for $25 and 24-inch flat screen TVs for $84.

Tom Fox and his son, Rob, of Lincolnton, were two of about 50 who arrived at Best Buy days before it opened.

“My son has been after me all week to come out here. We called Best Buy and asked if we could have a tent, and then we packed everything up and rolled over here,” Fox said. “The whole family thought we were crazy.”

Like most of the Best Buy shoppers, the Fox family was after the $200 flat-screen TVs.

While electronics and toys — the usual big sellers on Black Friday — remained popular this year, retail workers and area residents said crowds were smaller this year.

“Last year, it was TV after TV going out the door. This year, I’ve seen a lot of people coming out with grocery bags or nothing,” said Beth Whicker, a volunteer with Salvation Army who manned a donation bin outside Walmart on Friday.

Whicker said donations have also been less frequent from customers visiting Walmart and other retail stores in the area. She said, however, that people have been in a “merrier” mood than the past five years she has volunteered.

Walmart buzzed Friday with people looking for electronics and toys.

Kathleen, a worker in the jewelry department, said there was less business, though.

“This year is really different,” Kathleen said. “We’re not as busy as we used to be, and I’m sure the economy has a lot to do with it.”

Kathleen said that laptops and toys were still top sellers this year.

“Closer to Christmas, we will sell more jewelry,” she said. “That’s when all the men do their last-minute shopping."