Thousands of bargain hunters waited in line as early as 3 p.m. to grab door buster deals on what is now becoming Black Thursday for many Cullman retail stores.
For large area retailers like Belk and J.C. Penny, the doors opened at 8 p.m. and department stores like Walmart and Kmart kept their doors open all day on Thanksgiving, but offered staggered deals throughout the night.
Cullman police officer Adam Clark said some bargain hunters were outside of Belk around 3 p.m., but he only saw one problem during his shift.
“We had one incident tonight and it was just as the doors opened,” Clark said. “There was a woman who didn’t understand about the way the lines were set up and we even explained it over the loud speaker. She was upset and caused a fuss, but that was the most of it.”
Cullman residents Leslie Black, 29, and Sarah Owens, 24, arrived an hour early to get the advertised door busters, but it’s not an annual endeavor for them.
“I don’t come out every year, I go to Black Friday every three-four years,” Black said. “I decided to this year because of a job change, had some extra cash so I decided to seek out the deals.”
Owens on the other hand has worked in retail and is even less of a Black Friday fan.
“I worked Black Friday for H&M and Old Navy, it’s crowded and crazy,” Owens said. “You can definitely find good deals, but waiting in long lines and dealing with all the people, it’s a chaotic thing.”
Cullman resident Randy Nelson found a place to park himself in Belk and said he’s been going his wife on the shopping adventure the last 7-8 years to get bargains for his grandchild.
“It’s a crazy thing, honestly, my favorite thing is see people get in fights over the stuff,” Nelson said. “My wife always finds good deals. I bet she has her hands full right now. Belk is pretty busy, but you should have seen Walmart two hours ago. It took me 30 minutes to just walk from one end to the other.”
Walmart had more than six Cullman police offers in and around the store at any given time. Cullman assistant police chief Craig Green said it was a nearly an incident-free shopping event.
“There were seven or eight of us there and it went well considering the crowds,” Green said. “You have to give credit to the employees and the management at Walmart. They staggered the specials a couple of hours apart so that people weren’t all there for the same sale, and it was a great job of planning. There were thousands of people out and I was told of one incident with an upset, angry customer. So with one incident with thousands out, I must say it was a successful night.”
Officer Chris Nichols said an incident in Walmart involving a woman being shoved when the doors opened ended with a cut on the bridge of her nose, but that was the biggest issue that he saw during his shift.
Kmart store Manager Courtney Sneed said it was busier during the day on Thursday opposed to Thanksgiving night.
“We haven’t had any problems here, the people have really been great and only said good things,” Sneed said. “I’ve heard about how short the wait is here in comparison to other places and everything has gone well so far.”
J.C. Penney employees Bonnie Kolde and Cindy Gentry were familiar with the overload of customers when the doors initially open, but were prepared for shopper to still be pouring in well through the night and early morning hours.
“We were really busy last night, but it’s gotten calmer and we’ve seen a steady flow since,” Gentry said. “We haven’t had any problems either, everything has went smoothly.”
Shoppers still flocked to the retail stores on Friday morning, including Eva resident Heather Stiles.
“I shop on Black Friday, not Thursday; I think Thursday should stay reserved for Thanksgiving and time with your families, not for shopping,” Stiles said. “I will not shop on Thanksgiving. It’s crazy how the hours keep dropping each year. Last years stores opened at midnight, this year it was at 8 p.m.; I’m scared next year they’ll be open all day long on thanksgiving. Thursday should remain a family day.”
* Lauren Estes can be reached at email@example.com or 256-734-2131, ext. 137.