The Free Press, Mankato, MN

St. Peter news

November 29, 2013

Many shoppers make it a Gray Thursday

The 'Black Friday' experience arrives in St. Peter

Greg Bates wasn’t interested in saving money, which is what drove most shoppers out of their homes to shop on Thursday.

Bates, 21, sacrificed his Thanksgiving holiday — as did his friend, 23-year-old Jessie Morris — so that he was sure he’d get his hands on a PlayStation 4. Quantities are limited, so being first in line at Best Buy Thursday morning, more than seven hours before the store opened, ensured he’d get his hands on one before they ran out.

“I grew up with PlayStation,” Bates said. “You stick to your loyalties.”

In the past, the Friday after Thanksgiving is when these kinds of lines formed outside big-box stores. But throughout southern Minnesota, the Thanksgiving scene looked a little different this year.

Instead of mostly quiet streets, traffic flowed toward major retailers Thursday night for all the early shopping deals on what has been coined “Gray Thursday.” That’s because many retailers decided to vie for bigger shares of the “Black Friday” pie by opening on Thanksgiving.

The scene was completely new to St. Peter, which had never had a large retail store until recently when Shopko moved into town, said Todd Prafke, city clerk/administrator. In previous years, the shopping experience was centered mostly around the downtown specialty shops and certainly did not begin on Thanksgiving.

“Downtown St. Peter is a Norman Rockwell shopping scene,” said Ed Lee, executive director of the St. Peter Chamber of Commerce. “Stores will certainly have specials on Black Friday, but there won’t be long lines and door-buster sales. It has always been more about atmosphere and elbow room, strolling casually from shop to shop, and taking breaks to sip coffee or hot chocolate.”

St. Peter’s Shopko was open early Thursday through 3 p.m. About 40 people were lined up before the store opened and then flowed in and out throughout the day.

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