COLUMBIA — Chaos. Craziness. Pandemonium.
These are the words chosen by Columbia Mall employees to describe last year's Black Friday shopping experience.
- Toys R Us: 10 p.m. Thursday night
- J.C. Penney: 3 a.m.
- Kohl's: 3 a.m.
- Target: 4 a.m.
- Macy's: 4 a.m.
- Sears: 4 a.m. (and 7 a.m. to noon on Thanksgiving)
- Best Buy: 5 a.m.
- Bass Pro Shops: 6 a.m.
- Columbia Mall: 6 a.m.
- Walmart on Grindstone: always open 24 hours, but deals on electronics will go into affect at 5 a.m. with deals on everything else starting at midnight Thursday night
“There are people running in as soon as the gates open,” said Jordan Marsillo, assistant manager of New York and Company in the mall. “Last year we added extra register lines and there were still lines out the doors.”
This year, it could be more hectic as stores open even earlier and offer online coupons ahead of the holiday rush.
Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving, when national outlets such as Walmart, Target and Best Buy entice shoppers with deeply discounted items in the predawn hours. In Columbia, most big department stores will unlock their doors between 3 and 6 a.m.
Black Friday is traditionally considered the beginning of the holiday shopping season, though it has become the second biggest shopping day of the year. The Saturday before Christmas typically sets the record.
This year, there could be as many as 138 millions shoppers hunting for bargains during Black Friday weekend, according a survey prepared for the National Retail Federation. The federation predicts high-volume sales in toys, e-readers, appliances and HDTVs.
The biggest deals at nationwide stores such as Target and Walmart are expected to be in the toy, electronic and home departments.
"Electronics is usually the biggest department, with blu-ray, TVs and cameras going first," said Jason Walker, manager of Target at the Columbia Mall. "Toys are also extremely popular."
The term "Black Friday" originated in the 1960s and was coined as the official kickoff of the Christmas shopping season, according to the official Black Friday website. Back when accounting records were kept by hand, red ink was used to indicate a loss and black ink used to indicate profit — hence the name.
In 2008, a Walmart worker died in the rush in New York and two shoppers were killed at a Toys R Us after an argument.
This year, some stores are attempting to spread out the shopping fever with earlier openings and pre-Black Friday specials. In Columbia, Toys R Us opens at 10 p.m. Thursday; J.C. Penney and Kohl's open at 3 a.m.; Target, Sears and Macy's open at 4 a.m.; Best Buy opens at 5 a.m.; and the Columbia Mall opens at 6 a.m.
“Some stores in the mall will be opening a little bit earlier than the mall itself,” said Rusty Strodtman, general manager of the Columbia Mall.
“Sears, Penneys, Target, Aeropostle and others are all opening a few hours earlier because this is an aggressive year. They’re trying to keep up with the competition of the 24-hour stores.”
Many retailers are using online shopping deals as incentives. Walmart is offering free shipping on certain items through Dec. 20. Kohl’s will offer free shipping on any purchase over $75. Target is doing the same for purchases of $50 or more and Toys R Us for $49 or more.
Sears raised the stakes by offering Black Friday deals with advertisements that say “Black Friday Now!” more than a week before the actual date. Sears will also be open from 7 a.m. to noon on Thanksgiving Day.
Bass Pro Shops in Columbia again is planning the “Great Turkey Campout” event Thanksgiving night with s'mores, games, and a campfire.
“Some of the people who participate in our Great Turkey Campout stay after it ends at 8 and camp in the parking lot all night,” said Holly Russell, office administrator at Bass Pro. “In the morning we provide coffee and cookies while people are waiting for the doors to open.”
Stores are not the only competitors on Black Friday, which can lead to confrontation.
“Last year we had a couple of women fighting over who was next in line," Marsillo said. "They already had their merchandise in their hands and of course they would both get to the register, but they wanted to be the first.”
Strodtman said there are ways to keep the competitive tension under control and shop strategically.
“Be patient. Unfortunately not everybody will get exactly what they want, but it’s important to just be patient. Something someone could do is partner up and have one person stand in line while the other goes to get the item they want.”
Marsillo also has a tip for smart shopping on Black Friday: Prepare a plan of action ahead of time.
"It’s a good idea because you know the deal you will get, and you can get in and get out and move onto the next store as quickly as possible.”