ESCANABA - Millions of Americans took to the stores today for what has historically been the largest shopping day of the year. Upper Peninsula residents were no exception, taking advantage of Black Friday deals from area retailers.
"It's a blast. You hear horror stories on TV with people getting in fights and stuff, but that doesn't happen in Escanaba," said Tim Strasser, Menards general manager.
While local stores may be less violent, that doesn't mean that safety isn't a major concern when stores are filled with people.
Holly Richer | Daily Press
Shoppers were out in full force Thursday evening and this morning for special Black Friday sales throughout the nation. Above, the Maeder family from left, Mark, 12, Sarah, 17, Emily (background), 14, and Carol, of Gladstone, have two shopping carts full of deals as they get a closer look at Christmas village sets on display at Menards in Escanaba this morning.
"We have our entire team scheduled for the whole day - especially in the beginning of the day so - we get everyone what they need safely," said Strasser.
Strasser believes that around 1,500 people visited the Escanaba Menards last year to purchase electronics, gun safes, and other items. This year the store opened an hour earlier, at 5 a.m., allowing more people to visit the store before it closes tonight.
Menard's isn't the only store making changes to let more people through the door. Last year Americans spent a record breaking $52 billion over Black Friday weekend, according to the National Retail Federation, and this year retailers across the country are looking to set new store records.
"We're hoping for a bigger crowd," Theresa Prosen, store manager for the Escanaba Kmart. According to Prosen, Kmart shoppers were lined up on the sidewalk from the front door to the back of the store last year.
Thursday Kmart closed its doors at 4 p.m., only to reopen them from 8 p.m. to 3 a.m. This is the first time Kmart has been open overnight for Black Friday. Late night and early morning shoppers had access to different sales than the shoppers who arrived after the doors opened again at 6 a.m. this morning.
Many shoppers who use Black Friday to get a head start on their holiday gift list may think that the holiday shopping seasons has come early this year. However, while Black Friday is always the day after Thanksgiving, this Thanksgiving was the earliest it has been since 2007.
"People think it starts earlier and earlier, but it always starts on Thanksgiving," said Prosen. "The tree may get set up earlier, and the Christmas stuff might go out earlier, but it's always Thanksgiving."
No matter when the holiday shopping season starts, shoppers are often scrambling to get that perfect gift before it's off the shelves. Some items, like this season's most popular toys, can be particularly hard to find.
"You have to grab them while you can because the hard to get ones don't usually come back in," said Prosen.
Toys and electronics are are expected to be popular at stores across the area today, but other items, like movies, single cup coffee makers, and jewelry are also predicted to be hot sellers.
"And everything you need to decorate for Christmas," added Shopko store manager Dan Branam.
Shopko also started Black Friday early by opening its doors at 9 p.m. Thursday. Last year the Escanaba store saw over 5,000 Black Friday shoppers and Branam expects to see a similar turnout this year.
According to a national NRF survey, 34.8 percent of respondents said they would definitely be avoiding Black Friday sales. That number is up from last year when 31.8 percent of those surveyed planned not to shop over Black Friday weekend.
Despite the drop in projected shoppers, nearly 50 percent of shoppers between the ages of 18 and 34 are planning to shop this weekend. Another 36.3 percent of 18 to 24 year olds and 31.8 percent of 25 to 34 year olds report that maybe they will decide to shop.
Senior citizens are expected to make up the smallest portion of shoppers, with more than 61 percent of those surveyed over the age of 65 planning to avoid the shopping rush this weekend.