ROCK HILL — Retailers across York County sliced into turkey time this Thanksgiving, opening earlier than ever to kick-start the holiday shopping season with deep discounts and media fanfare.
Lines formed early outside stores with shoppers lured by doorbuster sales and others eager to partake in an American tradition gathering with family for a post-feast shopathon on Black Friday, and this year, for the first time, Thursday too.
Shoppers crammed area retailers Thursday evening and into the wee hours Friday. Business was brisk throughout the day as parking lots outside malls and retail plazas remained mostly full.
Target employees in Rock Hill clocked in at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving while a line of waiting shoppers stretched across the parking lot.
When doors opened an hour later, what seemed like 3,000 people flooded the electronics and toy aisles, said employee James Wright, who was still on the job at 6 a.m. Friday.
Shoppers were courteous and the atmosphere was mostly chill, said Wright, who was scheduled to return that evening for another all-night shift.
Walmart in Rock Hill, Clover, Tega Cay and York opened even earlier, at 8 p.m. Thursday.
The Friday after Thanksgiving is traditionally one of the years biggest shopping days. It kicks off the holiday shopping season, when retailers look for profits to move them out of the red and into the black, hence the name Black Friday.
Many stores welcome customers hours before daybreak, but open signs have been flashing earlier in recent years as brick-and-mortar retailers seek to counteract online rivals such as Amazon.com.
Zealous shoppers lined up outside Best Buy in Rock Hill on
Wednesday morning, almost two days before the electronics retailers midnight Thursday opening.
Ernesto Valtierra, an eight-year veteran of the annual shopping bonanza, dressed warm and lounged in a camping chair, munching McDonalds and chatting with familiar faces.
This is fun, he said from his choice spot at the front of the line. We make friends, and have good food.
Best Buys general manager Temiko Griffin planned to let customers in 25 at a time, to keep the rush orderly as shoppers hunted laptops and 40-inch TVs on sale for less than $200.
As of Friday afternoon, Rock Hill authorities said there were no reports of shopping-related incidents. Efforts to lure consumers appeared to be working.
A surge of shoppers filled the Rock Hill Galleria from midnight until about 2:30 a.m. After a lull, shop owners said, business picked back up around 5 a.m.
Sharon Gravely was happy to take Belk up on a buy one, get two free offer.
Its a good time to stock up for all of the kids, said Gravely, who drove up from Georgia to spend the holiday with her sister Shirley Rogers.
The family has made their Black Friday outing for more than a decade.
We do it just because its tradition and its fun, Rogers said.
J.C. Penny bucked the trend, opening at 6 a.m. Friday.
The companys CEO Ron Johnson, sent customers an email that said, according to news reports: spending Thanksgiving with family is one of Americas greatest traditions. Since jcp was founded on the Golden Rule, Im proud to honor this tradition by keeping our stores closed on this special day.
I hope our customers and employees all enjoy a wonderful holiday with loved ones.
The move didnt appear to dampen enthusiasm at the Rock Hill J.C. Penny.
Store manager Darlene Todd was greeted by an eager crowd that morning who cleaned the store out of hand mixers, coffee makers and crock pots on sale for $8 each.
They were gone by 6:05, Todd said. It was a frenzy in here.
By midday, business was on par with Black Friday last year, when the store opened at 4 a.m., Todd said.
Its been an exciting morning and an exciting day, she said.
Small Business Saturday
Some area shops left Black Friday to big-box stores and national retailers in hopes of fanning the fervor an extra day and attracting shoppers deterred by long lines and massive crowds.
Theyre joining thousands of small businesses and mom-and-pop shops across the country offering bargains and specials today for Small Business Saturday.
Shops in downtown Fort Mill are taking part.
All Party, an event and party supplier store off Main Street, is offering discounts on custom designed wreaths and decorative trees. All Christmas wrap, gift bags and decorations is on sale for 99 cents.
Its perfect to have it Saturday because people are in shopping mode, said Trina Zimmerman, All Party owner. But it doesnt compete with Black Friday, because theres no way a small business can do that.
Credit card giant American Express has said it created Small Business Saturday three years ago to help small businesses struggling in the recession. Cardholders who register online get a $25 rebate if they make a purchase at a participating business.
Local Dish, a main street restaurant specializing in local ingredients, will be open. Head Chef Neil Bratton plans to offer specials for hungry shoppers.
Were hoping to see some added business in downtown Fort Mill, he said.
United Artisans of America, which shares space with All Party, will offer 30 percent off fall wreaths and 10 percent off Christmas decorations. The shop also features work by 45 area artisans, including jewelry, photography, clothing and handbags.
The artists are all from the York County region, Zimmerman said.
Were talking real local, she said. Im just hoping were able to get the word out.
Anna Douglas • 803-329-4068