Huddled beneath a taut fleece blanket and standing just feet from Best Buy’s locked entrance, 17-year-old Chelsea Zink succinctly summed up her early morning options.
“I guess I’ll just stand here and wait,” she said, resigned to her fate.
The annual Black Friday consumer crush unfolded in waves Friday morning as consumers poured through sliding glass doors like water beneath raised sluice gates. Long stretches of static waiting — Zink spent about an hour in line outside the Best Buy on Canal Drive — gave way to brief moments of frenzied consumerism, although the maddening scenes of shoving shoppers and rabid gift-seekers during Black Fridays of years past appeared largely absent in Kennewick.
Stores opened as early as 5 a.m. Some closed only briefly during the wee hours of Friday morning after Thanksgiving Day sales that stretched past midnight.
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Zink, of Othello, was among consumers who got a head start on holiday shopping Thursday. She took time out of her Thanksgiving to do some pre-Black Friday reconnaissance work at Best Buy. A MacBook Air caught her eye, so she returned Friday morning and watched the darkness fade to daylight as she waited for the doors to open.
The line outside Best Buy on Friday morning stopped short of West Grandridge Boulevard, but it was long enough to deter less-patient shoppers. One man, while approaching, slowed his gait and ran his eyes across the growing line outside the Best Buy.
“Yeah, I’m not waiting,” he muttered, never breaking stride as he disappeared into the parking lot.
About 61 percent of the nation will shop for the holidays between Thursday and Sunday, according to the National Retail Federation. Consumer spending between Thursday and Monday is expected to total $36.7 billion this year, a 1.8 percent increase over 2013, according to the market researcher IBISWorld. November and December sales can account for as much as 30 percent of a retailer’s annual business, and make up almost 20 percent of the industry’s yearly $3.2 trillion in sales, the National Retail Federation states.
About 2,000 customers were expected to make purchases Friday at Sportsman’s Warehouse on Canal Drive, store manager John Powell said. The Black Friday surge generates four times as many sales as an average Friday at Sportsman’s Warehouse, Powell said.
The Kennewick store opened at 6 a.m. after being closed on Thanksgiving. The longest line wasn’t outside, but instead quickly materialized in front of the store’s firearms section. Freddy Sanchez, a 22-year-old from Kennewick, leafed through an advertising circular as he waited to buy a .45-caliber Para 1911 Expert pistol that, after the sale and mail-in rebate, went for less than 50 percent of retail.
“I was going to buy that pistol a long time ago, but now it’s on sale,” he said.
He visited Walmart and Best Buy on Thanksgiving Day, and arrived at Sportsman’s Warehouse as it opened 6 a.m. Friday. Standing beside a shopping cart filled with fishing waders and camouflage gear, Sanchez said he planned to spend between $600 and $700 Friday, or about the non-sale price of the 1911 pistol.
“Mainly it’s about saving money,” Sanchez said of his Black Friday motivation. “Stuff is expensive.”
Powell said morning sales at Sportsman’s Warehouse appeared stronger than for last year’s Black Friday.
At the nearby Best Buy, David Haws of Yakima browsed a tripod about 8:15 a.m., almost three hours into his Black Friday shopping trip. He arrived just minutes before the store opened and found himself at the back of the line. The line moved steadily, he said, but the pace quickened once Haws crossed Best Buy’s threshold.
“It seemed like everybody in the front of the line knew what they wanted,” said Haws, who described the initial scene as a “mad rush.”
Haws, 32, saved his holiday shopping for Friday, saying he believed Thanksgiving Day should be spent with family.
“I’m actually trying to get it all done today,” he said as he eyed the tripod.
Tammy Galbreath of Richland started her Black Friday at 6 a.m., but unlike Haws, she had no intention of wrapping up her holiday shopping by the end of the day. Galbreath waited outside PetSmart on Friday morning ready to stock up on goodies for her companion in line — an English Springer Spaniel named Jewels.
“They have the good dog treats here,” Galbreath said. She was also in the market for a dog bed.
Galbreath was doing personal shopping Friday and planned to wait another week or two before starting her holiday gift buying. Her reasoning? She figured many of her friends and family would also be shopping for themselves on Black Friday, and she didn’t want to duplicate gifts.
“I’ll wait and see what they didn’t get on Black Friday,” she said.
Holiday shopping specials will continue with Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday.
A number of businesses in downtown Kennewick and The Parkway in Richland are working to draw shoppers to locally owned stores today on Small Business Saturday.