BLACKSTONE VALLEY, Mass. – Thousands of bargain hunters queued outside their favorite stores at the Shoppes of the Blackstone Valley in Millbury and Walmart in Whitinsville, some of them for hours on Thursday, waiting for the start of Black Friday shopping.
Joe ‘Incognito’ of Northbridge (his name withheld to protect the Christmas surprises he plans for his family), was first in line when WalMart opened its doors at 1 Friday morning.
He’d been there since a little before 3 Thanksgiving afternoon. Bundled in layers, hands in pockets and shivering from the cold at 11 p.m., he joked about getting away from family on a holiday as his reason for getting there so early.
His real reason, though, was to be one of the first at the electronics section to purchase a television and computer at very low advertised prices.
Hundreds of others snaked behind him, some of them prepared for a long, cold wait with lawn chairs and warm blankets. By 11 p.m., a line of shoppers snaked a few hundred feet in front and around the side of the building.
Heidi Brazeau and Jen Lord were with a group of experienced Black Friday shoppers about halfway down the line. They’d arrived around 7 not bothered by the cold.
“This is fun,’’ said one of his fourth or five Black Friday experience. His head was covered with a fur-lined hat with ear muffs attached. “It’s a lot worse when it snows,’’ he said.
Jason Darling of Uxbridge was there with his service dog George, both of them prepared for the cold wait.
“Where’s the ‘Dunkin Donuts’ lady shouted a woman in line as a young man walked by. “She’s on her way,’’ he said to the relief of those lucky few waiting for the promised warm up.
At the mall in Millbury, Kohl’s shoppers extended from the front of that store, past Best Buy, its own line of shoppers adjacent to them and separated by a barrier. Both those lines turned a corner and extended toward Dick’s Sporting Goods.
Dan Cheney, assistant manager at Kohl’s, chatted with waiting shoppers. The first in line were Jackie Pereira of Worcester, Jessica Pereira of Northbridge and Heather Warren of Millbury. They’d been there since 8:45.
Blanket-bundled Pam Kuketz of Worcester, about 15th in line, was there to purchase a digital camera for $50.
Best Buy employees walked the line of waiting shoppers passing out tickets. “Who is here to buy a television or computer,’’ shouted one, and hands went up. Not as many showed an interest when the call went out for cell phone tickets.
Cheers of happiness echoed throughout the mall parking areas when shoppers were allowed into the stores, but that didn’t end the wait. Only a certain number of people were allowed into each store at a time. New shoppers were allowed in as others checked out.
Despite the large crowds, the National Retail Federation in America estimates the number of shoppers over the weekend will be lower than last year – 147 million compared with 152 million in 2011.