With more York County retailers opening for business on Thanksgiving this year, there was a cry among many to honor tradition and keep stores closed on Thursday.
Whether stores were open Thursday or just on Black Friday, local shoppers defended their traditions – the quest for the best deals no matter how long, or far, it takes them.
Kelly Waldrop of Rock Hill went shopping in a T-shirt featuring the words, “Shop ’til you Drop under the Carolina Moon.” A self-professed queen of cheap, a coupon clipper and one who “never pays full price for anything,” Waldrop was 16 hours into her holiday shopping spree when she rolled into Academy Sports + Outdoors shortly after it opened at 5 a.m. Friday.
By then, Waldrop already had been to more than 20 stores in two states, in search of the best deals. She had spent far more than the $737.95 the National Retail Federation estimates the average shopper will spend this holiday season.
Waldrop is far from your average shopper – she was buying for somewhere between 20 and 25 people.
Why shop so much with so many other days before Christmas and other alternatives, such as online retailers?
“It’s the thrill of shopping, the Adrenalin rush,” Waldrop said, leaning on a shopping cart. “I shop ’til I drop, literally.” It is a tradition she has held for the past 15 years.
Waldrop started shopping this year at 6 a.m. Thursday, when Kmart opened. At about 1 p.m. Thursday, she took a break for a Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings – despite the joke among her family that the only thing they had time for with all the planned shopping was a grilled-cheese sandwich.
Among Waldrop’s deals: a 40-inch TV set bought at Walmart for $169, a basket of halogen lights from Lowe’s (for the guys at work) and 15 pairs of boots for the family, from Belk.
After shopping at Academy, Waldrop estimated she had at least one more hour of shopping before she had everything for the holiday season, save the stocking-stuffers.
Not every one shopped at Waldrop’s frantic pace.
Mary Plyler of Rock Hill arrived at Kohl’s long after the first wave hit the stores at 8 p.m. Thursday. Plyler walked into Kohl’s just before first light Friday – about 6 a.m.
The aisles were not jammed with people and shopping carts, and Plyler and her daughters and granddaughter could make their way at a leisurely pace around the store.
“We’re really shopping for ourselves,” Plyler said. “Whatever catches our fancy.”
Her foursome came to Kohl’s first “because they have the best deals,” she said. The schedule after Kohl’s called for breakfast, then more shopping at the Rock Hill Galleria, followed by lunch and maybe more shopping before returning home.
The only thing off limits for the shopping spree was talk of football and the upcoming South Carolina-Clemson game.
Mary and her daughter, Joanna Carter, wore orange Clemson jackets. Daughter Leigh Starnes and granddaughter Kristen Starnes of Lancaster wore the garnet of South Carolina.
J.C. Penney learned its lesson for messing with tradition last year.
For many years, J.C. Penney has given its early-morning Black Friday shoppers a limited edition Disney snow globe.
Last year, the retailer gave out promotional buttons instead. The move did not sit well with long-time snow-globe collectors.
At 4 a.m. Friday, the snow globe was back.
Keri Collins was the first in line to get a 2013 snow globe. She had started shopping at 6 p.m. Thursday, making sure she was at Walmart at 6 p.m., 8 p.m. and midnight for the retailer’s sales.
She got to J.C. Penney at 3 a.m. to make sure she got a snow globe.
“You have to have patience to be a good shopper on Black Friday,” Collins said.
Also in line for snow globes was Joan Houlihan of Fort Mill. She didn’t shop Thursday because she works retail too – “making people work isn’t fair, family comes first” – but she was there early Friday and in line for the snow globes.
When she got a promotional button last year, she didn’t even try to see what she might have won.
Collins, Houlihan and others got their snow globes and headed for J.C. Penney’s customer service desk. The retailer acknowledged last year’s 2012 mistake and retroactively issued a 2012 snow globe.
Among those picking up 2012 and 2013 snow globes were Richard and Wendy Zgobica. Picking up the Disney snow globes is part of their wedding anniversary tradition, they said.
Some traditions are born of experience.
Sandra Wilson of Rock Hill said she has been a Black Friday shopper for about 20 years. On Friday, her job was buggy driver and the “in-line” person. At each store on the Wilson family’s list, she grabbed a shopping cart, pushing it to where the major items on her shopping list were located.
Once the major items were in hand, she headed for the check-out line, where she waited as other family members fanned out over the store, looking for smaller items. They dropped them in the cart as she slowly made her way through the check-out line.
“I’ve got one of the most important jobs,” she said.
Regardless of the shopping pace, shopper Michael Farley said, the time and effort are worth it. The payoff are the faces of children on Christmas “when they wake up to a pile of toys under the tree.”
Don Worthington • 803-329-4066