Roughly 30 people waited for the silver gate to slide into the ceiling Friday morning at the Columbia Center mall in Kennewick.
The group spanned ages — from teenage boys to middle-aged women — and clothing — from jeans and jackets to lounge wear — but they were all bound together by a desire to get a deal during Black Friday sales.
They joined the 137 million people the National Retail Federation expects will shop during the four-day stretch following Thanksgiving.
A majority of people, 56 percent, participating in the federation’s latest consumer survey, reported they had started buying gifts before Black Friday.
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The federation’s survey was conducted by Prosper Insights and Analytics, and 7,206 consumers were asked about their shopping plans. The margin of error is plus or minus 1.2 percent.
Odette Parnell-Cerda and her two daughters, Jessica Lemay and Lillie Parnell-Cerda, started shopping at Shopko, Walmart and Macy’s on Thanksgiving Day before waking up at 3:30 a.m. Friday to drive from Walla Walla and College Place to Kennewick.
“We came to go to Victoria’s Secret, Old Navy ... because we don’t have (those stores),” Odette said.
Inside Kennewick’s Target, several sales displays were already empty by 6:30 a.m. Friday.
Charlie Grigg, the owner of Griggs Department Store in Pasco, said the doors opened at 9 a.m. to a steady flow of people, but the Christmas rush actually began last week.
“It’s in all of the stores,” Grigg said. “The weather has been nice and they may have started the Christmas decorating early.”
Jesse Trejo and Ricardo Herrera, two 19-year-old college students waiting for the mall to open Friday morning, were part of the 58 percent of consumers the National Retail Federation expects will use holiday deals to buy themselves stuff. The percentage is an increase of 4.4 percent compared with last year.
It is the first year Trejo and Herrera have gone shopping on Black Friday.
“This is the first year that I’ve had money to spend,” Herrera said. “I woke up at 3 (a.m.) ... GameStop opened early, so I had to head there.”
Local businesses in the area will honor Small Business Saturday. The event, sponsored by American Express, is aimed at drawing more people into locally owned shops across the country.
The event drew roughly 95 million people to small businesses nationwide last year.
Even with more people shopping the days before and after the holiday, Black Friday remains the most popular of the shopping days during the weekend after Thanksgiving. The federation reported that 74 percent of the people who plan to shop during the weekend want to do it on Friday.
Jordan Youngs, the Columbia Center mall’s director of marketing and business development, said Black Friday draws more customers than any other day.
“The mall will be jam-packed by this afternoon,” Youngs said, roughly five minutes after the mall opened.
“We always expect it to be a little bit better every year because our stores have better and better deals every year,” he said. “In the years that I have been here, it seems like it’s become more and more popular every year.”