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Shoppers swarm to local businesses early for Black Friday deals

November 25, 2018

It was the calm before the storm.

After feasting on Thanksgiving turkey, hundreds of shoppers made their way to the Columbus Walmart. What lay before them on Thursday was a night of steals and deals leading up to Black Friday.

Inside the store were rows of clothing, kitchen appliances, toys and electronics placed in strategic parts of the store. Store employees wearing bright neon vests and other festive garments guarded the wares. Once the clock struck 6 p.m., it would be a full-on free for all. Until then, there was a calm among shoppers as they patiently waited.

One of them was Cody Hort of Elwood. He was eyeing the Google Home Mini, which was released last year. The voice-activated smart speaker can plan music and search the web like the Amazon Echo and other similar products. Hort said his household is full of Google products, such as Google brand security cameras and thermostats.

Hort arrived at Walmart 45 minutes before Black Friday shopping commenced. He said he’s participated in Black Friday shopping for the past five years and wasn’t too worried about the store running out of inventory because then he’d just shop online.

“It kinda gets more hectic every year, but not too bad,” Hort said about Black Friday.

The UNL student was in town this weekend visiting family. Earlier Thursday he was shopping with them at JCPenny and planned on going with his Mom and cousin Friday to the Menards home improvement store in Columbus.

While many were huddled around the electronics, others like Karyee LeSuer of Osceola was planning to snag some children’s pajamas. She was hoping to get some holiday shopping done for her four grandkids, all under the age of 5. LeSuer said she participates in Black Friday shopping every year and that over time it has gotten less hectic.

“I think just Walmart opening early and letting the customers come in instead of standing outside like we used to do years ago has been a great thing,” LeSuer said.

While she was waiting to buy some Spider-Man, Peppa Pig and Paw Patrol-themed PJs, her husband was on the hunt for a brand new flat screen TV. LeSuer said they weren’t planning on going anywhere else that night, but was considering making a stop at Menards Friday morning.

For other products like TVs and Smartphones, customers had to wait in various lines for the hope of grabbing one of these hot-ticket items. Hassan Abdikani of Schuyler came specificity to grab an Iphone 6. This was his first time participating in Black Friday shopping.

“This is my first day to shop for Black Friday, and I hope everything is going to be alright,” Abdikani said. “I’m just waiting for my chance (to get an Iphone 6). If I get it, great. If I don’t get it, I’m just going back home.”

Jon Quincy of Columbus was in line with his son, Eden, to buy a brand new 55-inch, 4k TV. He said when he came to Walmart last year to buy a TV that it was less organized. Back then the TVs were placed in the center aisles along with the rest of the smaller electronics.

Quincy said grabbing one in that set up was chaotic. This year, the store handed out numbered tickets to customers guaranteeing them a TV, which Quincy said was a better system.

This was only his second year participating in Black Friday shopping. On Friday, Quincy planned on stopping by Menards with his wife to continue his holiday shopping.

“No, I don’t enjoy it,” Quincy said about Black Friday shopping. “It gets really crazy trying to get through the aisles.”

At 6 p.m. the previous calm in the store was broken. Hundreds of customers scrambled to get in on the evening’s hot deals. The aisles were choked with people and the once empty parking lot overflowed with activity.

The holiday shopping season had begun.

Eric Schucht is a reporter with The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at eric.schucht@lee.net.

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