The Free Press, Mankato, MN

November 22, 2012

8 a.m. on Thanksgiving? The early shopper gets the goods

By Brian Ojanpa
Free Press Staff Writer

MANKATO — The first shot of the Civil War was fired at Fort Sumter in South Carolina on April 12, 1861.

The first shot of the 2012 Black Friday ado in Mankato was fired at Shopko Thanksgiving morning.

This year, Black Friday’s new spawn, Black Thursday, was christened amid controversy, with several big box retailers starting their holiday sale bacchanals Thanksgiving night.

The Shopko chain opted to one-up its brethren by offering 100 of its Black Friday sale items starting at 8 a.m. Thursday, and by 7:30 shoppers had formed a line for door-buster deals.

No doors were harmed in the making of this production, and first-in-line Dawn McCarthy, who beat dawn to the store, had scored the object of her quest — an $80 tablet.

Her pal Mary Olson also got what she was after — a $50 video game kit — and she suggested that her shopping foray was like that Carpenters’ song: We’ve only just begun.

“I’ll be going out tonight, and Friday too,” she said, stressing that her Christmas gift purchases are driven by need, not by want.

“We have 10 grandkids.”

For Charles and Marion Wendt, who’d driven in from Waldorf with their children, the 8 a.m. opening was a welcome alternative to their former Black Friday regimen.

“We used to get up at 3,” Charles Wendt said, “but now with four kids...”

Behind the Wendts in line was Jean Johnson, who had a single reason for standing in front of a locked building at 7:30 a.m.

“They have an $80 deep fat fryer for $20,” said Johnson, who hastened to add that even though she’d queued up for a quasi-Black Friday sales event, she’s not a fan of the concept.

“I honestly don’t believe in these silly sales, but I want that one item, so I’m getting that and going home. I don’t like this commercialization. I think people should be home with their families.”

Target, Walmart and other retailers across the nation began their Black Friday events at various evening hours Thursday, marking the first time Black Friday has crept into Thursday.

Retailers maintain they’re doing so in answer to consumer demand, which some retailing analysts say is a dubious contention, given the heightened competition from online shopping and retailers’ penchant for pushing the early-opening envelope further each year.

Some retailers who weren’t open on Thanksgiving have been using public backlash against the trend to work in their favor.

Mills Fleet Farm ran TV ads trumpeting that its stores stayed closed Thursday, and JC Penney CEO Ron Johnson did likewise in an open letter to customers. All of which has created a new-normal cultural reversal: Store chains seeking back pats for not being open on a holiday.

Meantime, other local chain stores opted to stay “traditional” by not starting Black Friday until Friday actually happened.

Best Buy opened at midnight, its usual array of low-ball prices accompanied by crowd-control barricades and a police presence.

The store hired several Mankato law enforcement officers to ensure that customers vying for coveted electronics played nice together.