About 8 a.m. Friday, the pair — who had been out since 9 p.m. Thanksgiving night — were taking a break inside Town Center Mall, deciding where to go next.
“We do this every year as a mother-daughter thing,” Ray said. “We try to do most of our Christmas shopping on Black Friday.”
And it was a good experience, they said. They were shopping mostly for clothes, rather than electronics.
“We haven’t stood in line today,” said Ray, who estimated she had spent about $400 so far. “We went to Walmart, Target, Kohl’s — we didn’t stay at Kohl’s long. They definitely had a line. We’re just debating what to do now. We have to take someone to the airport, so we’re trying to decide if we want to go home and relax before that, or just shop till we drop.”
Leach said she had bought gifts for 13 people on her list.
“The rest are my husband’s family, so he gets to shop for them,” she said with a laugh.
Another shopper, Phillip Lowe, may be in the running for the husband-of-the-year award.
Lowe was waiting outside a candle shop in the mall for his wife, Sonya. The Kennesaw couple set out about 5 a.m. Friday, he said.
“The deal that brought me out was the wife not nagging me,” he said. “The deal that brought her out was five pairs of shoes for $55 at Shoe Carnival.”
As for how much money they were spending on Black Friday sales, Lowe said: “She has mastered me not really figuring that out, except the shoe deal. I just let her have as much fun as she wants.”
The Lowes were shopping for their two teenage daughters, Sidney and Brianna, he said, and themselves, too.
“Our two daughters first, then she’ll get herself about 10 items, and then I can get two,” he said. “This is a lot better than last year. Last year, we started at midnight, and it was not fun. This year she allowed me to get some sleep. But I did a heck of a job on Thanksgiving, so I think that had a lot to do with it.”
Three hours into their expedition, Lowe said he had no idea if they were almost done.
“I may develop a strange cough out of nowhere to help me out with that,” he said with a sly laugh. “But she’s having fun, so that makes my whole weekend go really smooth.”
Though some anchor stores at Town Center at Cobb mall opened early Thanksgiving evening, doors to the mall itself opened at 11:30 p.m. Mall spokeswoman Shelly Weidner said the parking lot was 99 percent full at 1 a.m. By 7 a.m., it was 75 percent full. The mall has more than 5,500 parking spaces.
“Around lunchtime on a typical Black Friday, it will pick up again as people get their second wind,” she said.
JD DiCioccio has been general manager of Town Center at Cobb mall for seven years, and has worked for mall owner Simon Properties for 25 years.
Black Friday has evolved, he said, as more retailers joined in.
“Inside the mall, all the blue-chip nationals have certain events and promotions, where before it wasn’t on such a large scale,” he said.
There were no reports of crowd crushing or other problems, he said. Cobb Police have a substation at the mall, and the mall also hires off-duty Cobb Police officers to supplement its own security.
“That’s why it’s such a good environment here,” he said. “Safety is always our No. 1 priority.”
Over at Merchant’s Walk in east Cobb on Friday morning, mother-daughter duo Susan and Emma Hinck were heading into Kohl’s, where they planned to spend a couple hundred dollars.
Emma Hinck, 18, said Black Friday is among her favorite days.
“It makes things that are really, really expensive affordable,” she said.
Added Susan: “The prices make it worthwhile, and you might be able to find stuff you can’t get any other time of year.”
Kim Boyd of east Cobb and her friend, Lori Moore of South Carolina, have shopped Black Friday together for more than a decade. They alternate who visits who each year.
They started at 8 p.m. Thursday and were back at it by 5 a.m. Friday. They had been to Town Center Mall, Target, Walmart, Belk and Kohl’s and were heading to Old Navy at Merchant’s Walk.
“We started this before it was popular,” Moore said. She estimated she had spent about $350 on this shopping expedition, including a new iPod for her son.
Boyd said they had encountered crowds, but the checkout lines were not terrible.
“We’ve got this down to a science,” she said.
Jeannie Hayes of east Cobb, meanwhile, said she had gone to Kohl’s at midnight, but left and came back after daybreak Friday.
“I tried to get in and out, but the line was all the way past the end of PetSmart,” she said.
And what about those people waiting outside when it’s still Thanksgiving?
There were hundreds of them lined up the length of the Target store on Barrett Parkway, near Town Center, waiting for the store to open at 9 p.m. Thursday.
With an hour to go before opening, about 200 people were in line. Forty-five minutes later, the line had easily doubled and wrapped around to the side of the building.
Gates and plastic cords corralled the shoppers, and store security officers regularly walked the length of the line, explaining that they would allow 50 people to enter every 15 seconds, to avoid a crush of consumers all at once, and that no rowdiness would be tolerated.
Laul Buddha, 37, of Kennesaw, held the coveted first spot in line, which he earned by arriving at 3 p.m. Thanksgiving day. He was after an Xbox game system for himself and his son.
“I was the third one in line at Best Buy last year, and I’m the first one here this year,” Buddha said. “I won’t be here next year. There’s nothing else I want.”
Tom Avery of Acworth was fourth in line, after relieving his wife. His goal was a 50-inch television priced at $350.
“This is my third line today. I did Kmart over in east Cobb at 4:30, and we just left Sears about 6:30,” Avery said. “What a nightmare. Here is more organized. I used to work in retail and on Black Friday, so I did my tour of duty. We look forward to the bargains, but I won’t wait in a tent. Hopefully I’ll be home before 2 a.m.”
Kennesaw’s Chris Aldrich, 38, got in line at Target shortly before 6 p.m. Thanksgiving night for a digital camera and the latest iPad.
“I’ve been holding off for a long time, and it’s kind of a family gift,” he said of the iPad, priced at $499.99 and comes with a gift card. He and his wife, who was at Toys R Us, were tag-teaming the sales and buying for their two young children.
“This is my first time doing Black Friday, so I’ve got a little bit of adrenaline going,” Aldrich said. “I’m glad I’m not further back in the line, so I feel pretty comfortable I’ll get what I’m here for. My wife is going to circle back and pick me up, and then we’ll probably hit Walmart or Best Buy, or maybe see a movie. We’ve got the grandparents over, so this is kind of a date night.”
Walmart on Chastain Meadows Parkway is a 24-hour store, so it was open all day Thanksgiving, though the big sales didn’t start until 8 p.m. Thursday. The retail giant staggered its Black Friday sales, with some items on sale at 8 p.m., more at 10 p.m., and the last batch at 5 a.m. Friday.
Maps were available at the door showing where advertised items were placed around the store, and ready shoppers hovered near plastic-wrapped pallets. Store workers stood guard at pallets of items that didn’t go on sale until later, to make sure the plastic wasn’t opened.
Patricia Wolfe, of Marietta, was first in the line for the Nintendo DSi XL hand-held game system, priced at $99.96, $30 less than usual. She arrived at 6:30 p.m. for the item, which went on sale at 8 p.m.
“I just found out you can only get one, but I wanted to get two,” said Wolfe, a regular Black Friday shopper. “I’ve got three kids, and with their different electronics, it’s easy to save a lot of money.”
Anna Jordan of Illinois was waiting patiently for the pallet of Eureka vacuum cleaners to open. She always spends Thanksgiving with her daughter, Melinda Tolver, of Marietta, and her grandchildren, she said.
“I come here every year because in Illinois, we have to stand outside at Walmart,” she said. The vacuum cleaner was on sale for $36.
“What a deal!” she said. “We’re just getting started. We don’t plan on going to bed at all.”