Christmas shopping came early.
Retailers turned back the prices and the clocks. The traditional Black Friday frenzy crept into Thanksgiving with stores such as Walmart and Target opening on Thursday evening.
Shoppers worked off the turkey and pumpkin pie, scrambling for the best deals on TVs, game consoles and gifts for family members.
“I don’t like that it is so early,” said Yanni Feria, 33. “Traditional Thanksgiving dinner is out and people are forced to have Thanksgiving lunch.”
Feria stood with her family at the front of the line at Target on Immokalee Road minutes before organized chaos erupted at 9.
She had dropped her father, Arnold Soto, off seven hours early to secure the spot. Then she, her husband Arthur and her mother, Idiana, headed to Walmart to scoop up a couple bicycles, a basketball hoop and clothing at the store’s 8 p.m. doorbuster sale.
By 8:30 p.m., Carmen and Regan Hutchinson were also on their second course of holiday shopping. The sisters stopped at Walmart on Collier Boulevard — playing Santa Claus and picking up some toys for their children — before making the Target line, which swelled in the last hour from 500 to an estimated 2,000 before the doors open.
Target made national news in the past month after employees criticized the chain for opening on Thanksgiving. Regan Hutchinson, a third-grade teacher at Royal Palm Academy, could sympathize. She worked a part-time retail job last year.
“I feel bad that people had to work on Thanksgiving but here I am in line,” she said. “Every dollar counts.”
At the Best Buy on Naples Boulevard, two former Naples High football players had a game plan to tackle Black Friday.
Dillon Johns, 21, and Ryan Yerge, 20, looked out of place among the families camped out in tents along the sidewalk. Five hours before the doors opened at midnight, the line at Best Buy extended 100 deep with most people relaxing in lawn chairs.
Johns secured the first spot early Wednesday morning after finishing his graveyard shift at Total Wine. He said the Best Buy management gave the two VIP treatment.
“I was a little surprised to be the first in line after hearing reports about others standing in line for a week,” Johns said
At a Best Buy in Fort Myers, the line started forming last Friday with people saying they took the week off from work to cash in on the bargains.
Johns said the Naples Black Friday scene is calm in comparison. He said he experienced the shopping frenzy last year at a Rhode Island Best Buy and watched three people get arrested.
“People in Naples don’t take it as serious as other people,” Johns said.
Yerge said he use to hate the idea of Black Friday.
“I use to laugh at my family for coming to do this,” said Yerge, a full-time student at Edison State College. “But this year I had some extra spending money so I said, ‘Why not?’”
When asked what Naples High football coach Bill Kramer would say about the two camping out for two days, Johns said, “We are probably a couple of nut jobs to him.”
But Johns, a former defensive lineman, and Yerge, a former offensive lineman, had a comprehensive plan. They took turns camping out and even took time to get Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday with their families.
They also scripted out a plan to get the most out the $1,200 they were looking to spend. When the store opened, Johns planned on grabbing both a PlayStation and Xbox 360 while Yerges secured a 55-inch TV and car stereo equipment. Then they would scoop up discounted CDs and DVDs to give family members for Christmas.
They considered the shopping spree a twofer: deals for themselves and a Christmas shopping for friends and family.
“Wait for two days, get all of our shopping done within an hour and then we don’t have to do anything for a month,” Johns said. “That’s worth it.”