Tri-City shoppers eager to start checking off their Christmas gift lists and scooping up doorbuster specials won't have to get up early Friday morning.
Black Friday is starting a day earlier this year at 8 p.m. today at most stores at Columbia Center mall and at many other department stores, like Kohl's in Richland.
Other retailers, including Best Buy and Walmart, will open even earlier at 6 p.m.
"They'll barely have time to finish their turkey," joked David Spaulding, sales manager at REI in Kennewick.
REI won't open until 7 a.m. Friday but will stay open later.
"We try to stay out of the craziness," he said, noting REI online shoppers "can shop in their jammies, it's open 24 hours a day."
Across town, Marie Pincheira, part of the management team at Best Buy, is looking forward to today.
"It's one of the days of the year I live for," she said, adding that the rest of the sales staff "honestly gets super excited and want to be scheduled for that day. The time flies by super fast."
One of the doorbusters she's sure will have people postponing their after-dinner naps is a 55-inch LG Tv for $499.
"We'll probably have a line for them," Pincheira said.
One of those in line -- though he has his eye on a 65-inch TV -- is Oscar Perez of Kennewick.
He's been camping out for Black Fridays at Best Buy for six years, and this year is no different. It just began earlier.
Perez pitched his tent near the electronics and appliance store at 6 a.m. Tuesday.
"There are good deals every year, but I do it more for the adventure. It's fun and nice to stir things up in life. I do it for the experience," Perez said.
His buddy, Henry Macias of Pasco, joined Perez at their temporary campsite at 3 p.m. Tuesday. Macias wants to pick up a new PlayStation 4 and a couple of laptops. They've been using propane heaters to ward off the freezing overnight temperatures.
Even though they're spending Thanksgiving at Best Buy, the two won't miss out on dinner.
"Our families pack it and bring it down to us, and we all crowd around the tent and eat," Perez said.
Pincheira's not surprised Tri-City stores are opting to open for at least part of Thanksgiving Day. It's a trend she has seen in other parts of the country.
"It'll give our customers an opportunity to make a new tradition," Pincheira said.
Most of the stores at Columbia Center mall will open at 8 p.m. today and not close until 10 p.m. Friday.
"The mall usually opens at midnight for Black Friday, so this is just an extra four hours," said Jordan Youngs, director of marketing and business development at the mall.
Youngs said some, but not all, Simon Property Group malls will be opening on Thanksgiving. He said it's the company's way of accommodating shoppers who want to participate in the special sales at the mall stores but not stay up all night or get up at midnight.
"Though they're welcome to stay 26 hours if they'd like," he chuckled.
There will be restaurants and fast food places open during the extended hours at the mall. Friday, there will be a gift-wrapping station and the Sea Gals will be selling and signing their calendars 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. near the food court with proceeds going to Seattle Children's Hospital.
The craziness of Black Friday isn't an issue at Grigg's Department Store in Pasco.
"We've been open on Thanksgiving Day for at least 25 years," said Charlie Grigg, adding that the store -- but not the Ace Hardware stores also owned by the family -- will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. today.
"If, on Thanksgiving Day, you need a toilet plunger or an element for the stove, we're here. When you need something like that, you're not going to find it at a convenience store," he said.
Employees are asked to volunteer to work Thanksgiving and given the choice of a morning or afternoon shift at holiday pay rates.
"It's not a huge shopping day for us. I'd say we actually lose money, because sales aren't huge, but it's a convenience, a service for our customers. And if they want to pick up a Christmas gift with their plunger, all our after-Thanksgiving merchandise is on sale too," Grigg said.
He speculated that the push to open on Thanksgiving is being driven by the calendar.
"Thanksgiving is a week later than usual so there's a week less shopping time this year. Stores need to make a certain number of dollars and the question is, how to pick that up," Grigg said.
-- Loretto J. Hulse: 582-1513; firstname.lastname@example.org