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Long lines greet early risers

Shoppers give Black Friday mixed reviews

A shopper carries a 40-inch, flat-screen TV from the Best Buy in the Arena Hub Plaza just after 5 a.m. Friday. Some early shoppers found deals.

Black Friday shoppers line up outside Kohl’s department store off Wilkes-Barre Township Boulevard Friday before 4 a.m., waiting for the doors to open.

Aimee Dilger photos/The Times Leader

While big-box retailers saw long lines Friday morning, the Wyoming Valley Mall also did a brisk business.

WILKES-BARRE TWP. – Thousands of shoppers converged on shopping malls, big-box stores and traditional department stores Friday morning – or in the case of some, Thursday afternoon – to try to bag a bargain.

The chilly rain and cold economy could not deter those who see Black Friday as an annual tradition. But for others who were truly out to make a deal, not a friend, the long lines they encountered at some stores caused them to second-guess leaving their nice warm bed before dawn.

“This was a mistake,” was all Maurice DePalma of Pittston could say as he walked out of the Toys R Us store on Kidder Street at about 3 a.m. Friday. He went in looking for some Christmas gifts for his nephew.

But when he saw the line, which snaked in and out of aisles all the way to the back of the massive sales floor, and heard there was a two-hour wait time to get to a cashier, he didn’t bother shopping.

“I’ll come back later and pay the extra couple of bucks just to avoid that,” he said with a pointing gesture toward the packed store.

Tim and Kayla Schmidt came a lot farther than DePalma and opted to endure the wait.

The Bloomsburg couple were shopping for their 6-month-old son’s first Christmas. They got a few items, but Tim said “nothing we bought was much better” than if they had come Wednesday or Saturday.

But it was the couple’s first chance to Christmas shop as parents and they decided to embark on their first-ever Black Friday shopping trip.

“We wanted to see what it was all about,” Tim said. Kayla said she was not planning to head out for Black Friday 2010. The toy retailer was the only stop on their itinerary.

It was the first stop for Jennifer and Chris Snopkowski of Wyoming. Like DePalma’s, it didn’t last long.

The couple walked in and out after hearing the wait time and pulled out a handwritten list of stores they still had to visit. They had the names of the stores, the times the stores opened, the deals they were searching for and more.

It made it easier for shoppers like the Snopkowskis that stores opted to open at varying times this year rather all at once, forcing shoppers to choose one destination and one great deal.

The store openings list was like a cruise ship’s itinerary with a new flock of stores opening at the top or bottom of the hour.

Toys R Us turned on the lights at midnight; Aéropostale opened at 3 a.m.; Kohl’s, JC Penney and Sears at 4 a.m.; Target, Macy’s, Best Buy and Babies R Us at 5 a.m.; Radio Shack opened its doors at 5:30 a.m.; and Lowe’s, Home Depot, New York and Co. and Kmart did the same at 6 a.m.

The Snopkowskis headed to Kohl’s after their disappointing stop at Toys R Us and found a line of more than 200 about 30 minutes before the doors were set to open.

At the front of the line stood Mark McGivney of Plains Township. He arrived at 2:30 a.m. to drop his girlfriend off at work and came in search of towels and a griddle.

He arrived in the parking lot amid drizzle and darkness and found other vehicles already there but nobody in line. So he parked his vehicle, walked to the front door and soon those who arrived before McGivney left their vehicles and joined him in line.

Lines were the norm Friday morning, though some said they were a little leaner than last year.

Dennis Parry, the general manager at the Best Buy in the Arena Hub Plaza, said crowds Friday at his store were “a lot more manageable that last year.” He said the weather, the economy and the staggered openings of retailers led to the shorter line, albeit one that still wrapped around the corner of the Bed, Bath and Beyond store at the end of the plaza.

Kurt Slusser, the manager at the JC Penney store at the Wyoming Valley Mall, said there was a line when he arrived to work just before 3 a.m. and said when the doors opened at 4 the line seemed to be about on par with that of Black Friday 2008.

He said good sales throughout the year and earlier this week probably led to keeping the turnout a bit lower than what it was a few years ago.

He said items such as small appliances and jewelry were the hot sellers Friday.

At Babies R Us, the deal of the day seemed to be diapers. Two packs of Playskool brand diapers were on sale for $10, basically buy one, get one free.

Televisions, electronics and clothing seemed to be the items of choice of many Target and Kmart shoppers.

And with a day off of school, many students found their way to the malls rather than using their break for sleeping. Dozens of teens were in line at Aéropostale, Pacific Sun and Hollister.

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