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Black Friday has a less of an edge following Thursday openings

By DOUG ALDEN
New Hampshire Union Leader

November 29. 2013 8:40PM
A man tips his hat as the group "Jingle Bells" from Big Smile Entertainment sings Christmas Carols, from left are Nicole Vanderlaan, Gabrielle Archanbault, from Atkinson, and Michelle Cicerano, during Black Friday shopping at the Mall of NH, on Friday, in Manchester. (Thomas Roy/Union Leader)



MANCHESTER — Black Friday business was brisk, but not overwhelming for some area retailers that enjoyed a steady flow of customers after opening with "early bird" sales the night before.

Popular items such as tablet computers and the latest video game systems went quickly in "doorbuster" deals that some felt were enough of a bargain to spend part or even all of Thanksgiving waiting outside in the cold for the annual shopping frenzy to begin.

By Friday afternoon, chaos from the initial rush that used to take place the morning after Thanksgiving had morphed into a pleasant level of busy.

"I think people like to go out shopping the day after Thanksgiving. I really do," said Chris Comeau, assistant manager of the Staples on South River Road in Bedford. "We've been steady for a majority of the day, which has been nice."

Staples opened at 8 p.m. Thursday, following the trend of starting Black Friday a little earlier each year in order to avoid losing eager shoppers to competitors that also were trying to get a head start in busiest time of the year for retailers.

Comeau said hundreds of people were waiting in line and quickly bought out the stock of Kindles, Chromebooks, iPads and various electronics that were garnished with markdowns and other incentives. An enlarged copy of the weekly sales flyer was posted at the front with more than a dozen items with the label "sold out" written over the ad.

Customer Rob Lucivero said he was grabbing some business supplies for next week while running errands Friday afternoon. He said the timing was more based on need than holiday sales, but he did notice a difference from Black Fridays he endured in the past.

"The throngs didn't seem to be as big. People were out, but there just didn't seem to be as many from what I saw. It seemed a little milder," he said. "With the stores stocked the way they are, I don't get in line to fight people."

It was a similar scene to the north at the Bedford Grove shopping center, where GameStop opened at midnight to a line of customers hoping to grab one of the new Play Station 4 or Xbox One units released in time for the holidays.

Manager Justin Veverka said the supply went quickly, but customers came and went throughout the night and into Friday afternoon as the end of his marathon day grew closer. "It's been better than expected, actually," Veverka said.

An early indicator that the urgency of Black Friday had been overtaken by Thanksgiving-day sales was the availability of parking spaces at most shopping centers. There weren't a lot, but enough that parking lot traffic hadn't turned into the usual free-for-all.

The lot at the Mall of New Hampshire was nearly full, but open spaces were scattered throughout the maze of orange cones lined up to keep traffic orderly.

The mall was full of customers strolling from store to store or taking a break on a bench.

The Best Buy at the east end of the mall had been open since 6 p.m. on Thursday and busy ever since, general manager Christopher Perfetti said. Perfetti said even the initial surge when the doors first open was the smoothest he's seen in a while. He said people were polite while waiting to get in and remained cheerful and pleasant during the pre-dawn shopping spree.

Tablets and televisions were the biggest sellers, Perfetti said, and the sales floor was still full of shoppers and staff about 23 hours after the doors opened.

"I'm ecstatic but not stressed," Perfetti said. "It's been great!"

Across South Willow, Toys R Us had been open since 5 p.m. Thursday, also with a line of people waiting in the cold, and the aisles of toys remained full of shoppers Friday afternoon.

Manager Jen Simanton felt that starting three hours earlier than last year was a success because people didn't have to wait until the middle of the night.

"It helped it become more manageable. It really did," Simanton said.

dalden@unionleader.com


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