Tina Raymond’s T-shirt summed it up — “Black Friday Warriors: Go Hard or Go Home.”
Raymond, 32, and her friends Melissa Bognaski, 20, and Shannon Walker, 35, penned the message on their white T-shirts before heading out on their annual post-Thanksgiving shopping spree. This year the trio stayed out past 7 a.m. and planned to spend thousands of dollars.
“We’re gonna drop mad cash tonight,” said Raymond, who started the night at Walmart, and moved on to Bealls, Kohl’s, and Toys“R”Us.
Bargain hunters in Southwest Florida and across the country hit the stores early Friday — late Thursday in some cases — marking the unofficial start of the holiday shopping season. Several local shopping centers, outlet malls and department stores opened at midnight or earlier with the usual bevy of deals and “doorbusters” to lure in customers during the make-or-break month leading up to Christmas.
The November-December shopping period accounts for 25 percent to 40 percent of annual retail sales and profits, the Associated Press reported. For 2011, that’s almost half a trillion dollars in revenue.
Early Friday, the Coastland Center mall was filled with bustling shoppers. Many sat, exhausted, with bags surrounding their feet in the center of the mall.
Sean Keely was the first person in line at a local Best Buy — by several days. Keely camped out in a blue tent in front of the store for the better part of a week, drawing the attention of local media. He was there for a $199 42-inch Sharp LCD TV.
“I like making people wonder why,” Keeley said with a cigarette between his fingers and a cooler stocked with soda nearby.
Keely’s mother stopped by with food throughout the week, and he watched the Thanksgiving football games on a 32-inch television in his car.
“I have to be able to watch the football game,” he said. “I’m a (Detroit) Lions fan.”
The line outside the Target off Pine Ridge Road in North Naples extended down the block to Bealls before the store’s midnight opening. Target employees passed out protein bars to the people in line. When the doors finally opened, customers were allowed in the store in batches of 30.
One of the hot items of the night: a 46-inch Westinghouse LCD television on sale for $298.
“I waited for six hours,” said David Tanguma, 19, as he tried to fit the TV into the back of his girlfriend’s BMW. “I really wanted this (television).”
After waiting for hours just to get into Target, customers found another line winding through the store just to get to the registers.
The long line, combined with insufficiently low prices ended with some customers, including Betty Moreta, 42, leaving the story empty-handed.
“These were not Black Friday prices,” said Moreta, whose been going to Target on Black Friday for 11 years. “Look at the line. It’s not worth it.”
While Black Friday is a focus for national retailers, small retailers hope to get in on the holiday spending action this weekend through a concept called “Small Business Saturday,” started by American Express last year.
Today, many small businesses in Southwest Florida and across the country will offer special incentives of their own. Some have posted their deals on www.NFIB.com.
“Small business is really what drives our economy and keeps it healthy, and we’re hopeful Floridians remember that when they’re out there with their holiday spending money,” said Bill Herrle, executive director of the National Federation of Independent Business in Florida. “There are so many reasons to go to locally owned small businesses. Not only will you find unique, one-of-a-kind gifts, but you’ll also be directly helping your local economy.”
Staff writer Laura Layden contributed to this report.