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In an online world, Black Friday still brings shoppers to stores

November 24, 2018

Black Friday may not be what it used to be, but it still brings people out at the crack of dawn. Some are first-timers, others veterans. But regardless, the goal is the same: finding bargains to brag about.

Sleepy start

Black Friday shoppers got a sleepy start to their deal hunting, with some lines forming outside storefronts in the early morning hours, but nothing compared to the crowds chasing doorbuster sales on Thanksgiving Day.

Customers started lining up at the Academy Sports + Outdoors store in Cypress around 3:30 a.m. on Friday, reaching about 50 by the time doors opened at 5 a.m.

Rosa Castillo, 42, of Cypress, has shopped on Black Friday for about seven years. This Friday, she brought most of her family — her husband and four daughters, ages 9 to 18 — for the overnight shopping spree.

On Thanksgiving, Ashley, 10, and Daisy Castillo, 9, had urged their parents to take them along after they each won $6 playing a game of Loteria, or Mexican Bingo, with their family. But 12 hours later, not long after Academy’s doors had opened, the two girls were sitting in a blue shopping cart, with Ashley dozing, her head on her sister’s shoulder.

Their mother noted that their enthusiasm had waned from when the they left the house.

“They said, ’Let’s go! Let’s go!” Rosa Castillo said.

Traditionalists at Target

At the Target on Shearn Street, off I-10, shoppers were clutching coffees and browsing aisles at a leisurely pace around 8 a.m.

The morning crowd largely consisted of people who didn’t believe in shopping on Thanksgiving — about 500 others waited in line for that Target to open Thursday evening — and people who still need to touch and feel items before making purchases.

“I try not to do anything on Thanksgiving Day,” said Sarah Tobola, 44, of College Station, “but I’ll do early morning the day after.”

She took pictures of ads before coming to the store and was still able to find good deals, including Pokémon playing cards for her son that were priced half off.

Electronics were probably the most picked over. Sylvia Garcia, 56, of north Houston, was looking for an HP Chromebook for her grandson. She snagged a 14-inch screen though the less expensive 11.6-inch screens had sold out.

And despite the day’s slow start, Cameron Dennington, Target’s executive team leader of operations, predicted that Black Friday would be a busy day.

“It will be one of the top three highest sales days of the year,” he said.

Double duty

The Costco Wholesale on Richmond Avenue held dual appeal to those who ventured there Friday morning: good deals and normal shopping needs. Midmorning, it also lacked the congested aisles and long checkout lines to which its bulk shoppers are accustomed.

Ben Lai, 42, of southwest Houston, needed gasoline. After fueling up at Costco, he decided to step inside and see what else he could check off his Black Friday wish list. He’d already purchased a TV from Costco’s website and tires from Walmart.

He found a home security system at the Costco store and was next headed to Pep Boys for brakes.

“I don’t shop at Macy’s,” he said. “No clothing for me. This is guy’s stuff.”

Others came to Costco with a clear purpose. Kati and Rhett Davis, 38 and 40, of Houston, came for American Girl dolls for their 4-year-old twin daughters. The mom blogs said Costco had good prices and, after checking online, they decided to come to the store. Their goal: finding a different doll for each daughter.

“There are some things you have to go in for,” Kati Davis said.

Full bags and parking lots

The Galleria was abuzz after lunchtime, with people shaking off their turkey hangovers and scavenging for deals including 30 percent, 40 percent and 50 percent off.

Sheila Legair, 28, of northwest Houston, was taking a break at Salata while her 5-year-old son, Kumaré Legair Johnson, steered his new remote-controlled car. She doesn’t usually shop on Black Friday, instead preferring the convenience and prices of online, but decided Friday would be a good chance to take her kids ice skating at the Galleria.

Shopping was included, too, and Legair bought herself a half-off game for her PlayStaion VR headset, which uses virtual reality to immerse players in their video games. She just bought the headset last week.

“That was my Christmas present to myself,” she said.

Chris Lane, director of marketing and business development for the Galleria, said traffic appeared to be higher this year than in previous years.

“We have been very pleased to see many people out with lots of shopping bags, and our parking lots have been full,” he said in an email.

But not everyone was getting good deals. James Clay, 24, who lives near the Medical Center, bought eight pairs of shoes for family members, but hadn’t yet found a bargain.

“I thought I was going to catch a sale today,” he said.

Breakfast of champions

Many shoppers blur the lines between Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday. Two Cypress-area mothers, Deborah Weckerly and Krystal Limb, both 35, started shopping at 10 p.m. on Thanksgiving, hitting Target, Old Navy, Walmart, and Bath and Body Works before landing at the Academy in Cypress when it opened at 5 a.m.

Their fuel?

“Coffee and Whataburger,” Limb said, laughing.

andrea.leinfelder@chron.com

paul.takahashi@chron.com

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