Shoppers Snatch up Deals

Shoppers crowd around the photo counter with vouchers for the

Brave earlybirds show up at local stores for bargains on
electronics, toys
Gilroy – ‘Tis the season to fight over flat screen TVs and iPods.

Consumers woke up in the wee morning hours and trudged through the dark, rain-dampened parking lots of Super Wal-Mart hoping to get a real bargain on electronics.

Although the store is open 24-hours, specialty sale items like the $149.84 dual-screen, seven-inch car DVD player and the $488 laptop, didn’t go on sale until the early morning.

Customers hovered over bubble-wrapped pallets of the electronics and waited. When the clock struck 5am, it was pandemonium.

Destiny Toyooka was one of those electronics-hungry consumers. The Hollister resident, who was at Target by 6am, visited Wal-Mart first and said she nabbed a couple items when the wrapping was split open, even though she didn’t want them all.

“I was using those as leverage,” she said, explaining that she would trade other items for the extras she grabbed.

Toyooka’s predator instincts remained intact at Target, while she waited in the long line for the coveted Gameboy Advance Combo Pack, a gift for her 10-year-old.

“I’m gonna fight people for her right now,” she said.

On Friday, humans reverted back to their hunting and gathering mode searching for the best deals and filling carts with bargain electronics and once-again trendy toys such as Care Bears and Cabbage Patch Kids.

Across the freeway from the big box stores, the calm of downtown was quite a contrast. Most local merchants kept the same hours and some stores were even closed for the holiday weekend.

There were no lines or crowds. Most of the stores were nearly empty. An employee at Garbo’s Antique Mall on Monterey Road said the store owner called her this morning and asked her to come in an hour early.

Store owners said business had been steady throughout the day. But the employees at Sue’s Coffee on the corner of Monterey and Fifth streets saw an upswing in Friday sales.

“It’s a really busy mid-day,” said Cerinity Ortiz, a barista at Sue’s.

Perhaps customers were fueling up for a busy and especially early day of shopping.

For many, participating in the day-after Thanksgiving frenzy is as much of a tradition as pumpkin pie and turkey.

Every year, Jennifer Armenta flips through the ads, searching for good deals. She and her two daughters made the morning trek from Hollister and began their spree at Target.

“We’re starting here and then we’re moving over there,” she said, pointing to stores to the north.

While Armenta’s been doing the early-morning shopping for quite sometime, this year was the first time her 12-year-old daughter asked to come with her. She even signed up for the wake-up call from Kermit the Frog, a gimmick from Target.

At Best Buy, a Disneyland-like line snaked through the electronics store. General Manager Brian Bourke said he handed out coffee to the early-morning customers, some of whom arrived at 6pm Thursday night and camped out in the parking lot.

Call them crazy, but give thanks for Black Friday shoppers for boosting the economy. Last year, shoppers forked over $22.8 billion during the post Thanksgiving weekend, according to the National Retail Federation.

And this year, NRF predicts that consumers will spend even more on Black Friday.

“This will go down as one of the earliest and most promotional Black Fridays in history,” said NRF President Tracy Mullin in a press release.

According to NRF, holiday sales will increase by 6 percent this year, netting an estimated $439.5 billion. NRF will release its Black Friday survey Sunday.

Those predictions were evident to Target’s Amy Frugoli. As she wiped beads of rain drops off of red carts, the store manager said the line was wrapped around the store when they opened at 6am.

All of the carts were swooped up within the first five minutes. Frugoli estimated there were about three times as many customers at Target this year, compared to last.

Consumers may be opening their wallets and racking up the credit card charges, but the economic forecast doesn’t look too bright.

California’s apparent healthy economy is largely superficial. According to University of California, Los Angeles Anderson Senior Economist Christopher Thornberg, the state’s economy “seems healthy on the surface,” since the housing sector and consumer spending continue to grow but underneath, the economy is suffering.

As other areas grow, manufacturing and professional services lag behind, according to Thornberg.

That tricky appearance was apparent Friday, as shoppers filled their carts to the brim and stood in line to purchase the items at allegedly bargain basement prices. But for some, the savings isn’t worth the blood, sweat and tears.

“Seriously, the $5 or $10 you save isn’t worth it,” said Diana Masuen, while shopping in Target’s jam-packed electronics section around 6am. “It’s freakin’ nuts.”

Friday was Masuen and Amber Ingraham’s first-ever Black Friday shopping spree. Initially the two Prunedale residents jumped on the Wal-Mart bandwagon but when they saw the line, the two headed to Target.

Masuen and Ingraham were thinking about turning the shopping into an annual tradition. But by 6am the pair had had enough.

“There’s not enough caffeine in the world to make me do it (again),” said Ingraham.

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