by Timothy Chipp
Niagara Gazette — For some, Black Friday is a fantastic experience. Those were the people that showed up to take advantage of some sales at the Fashion Outlets of Niagara Falls late Thursday night.
Though the notion of Black Friday being on Friday appears to be dead as more and more large stores open their doors Thanksgiving Day, the shoppers don't seem to mind one bit, especially when they can get there hands on sales, including some retailers offering 80 percent off merchandise.
Shoppers like Ashley Gilson of Grand Island, a veteran of Black Friday shopping at the Town of Niagara mall, look forward to it no matter when it happens. In fact, she said she showed up at the mall at 6 p.m. to be the first in line.
"We're here every year," she said. "We're the first in line."
As for the deals she's looking for, she said Coach, a popular designer brand label, would be her first stop as soon as the doors opened at 10 p.m.
She said the deal made it worth leaving home early on Thanksgiving to form the line.
"It's 80 percent off," she said with a smile. "That means you can get a $325 purse for less than $100. How can you go wrong?"
But little did she know, waiting just feet away at the doors opposite her, were two more groups of people looking to get to the same store at the same time. And they were also first in line on their side of the mall's main entrance.
Christa Haughey of Kitchener, Ont., and Leslie Allen of Whitby, Ont., also had plans to pay Coach a visit once the cannon fired, signaling the official start to the holiday shopping season.
The Canadian shoppers, newcomers to the Black Friday shopping experience in this country, had every intention of grabbing all they could before deciding what to actually purchase.
"I'm looking for whatever I can get my hands on," Haughey said.
Allen responded with a quick "Grab as much as you can then decide what to buy later."
They both said they were impressed with the lines, but aren't perplexed by them. After all, Canadian shoppers have the same mentality on Boxing Day, celebrated Dec. 26. The lines can get just as long and excitement builds just as much, Allen said.
Still, the reputation of Black Friday isn't lost on them.
"We hear it could get dangerous," she said.
Of course, Black Friday isn't fun and games for everyone. Some people have to work while shoppers go nuts looking for sales everywhere. People had to make sure the crowds stayed safe and calm before the doors opened. The registers needed to work for sales to be finalized. Entertainment needed to work. The patrons needed to be fed.
The last responsibility fell, in part, to Traci Garland and her crew of helpers from Emerald Green Acres farm in Cambria. They set up a kettle corn stand outside the front doors, selling bags of popped corn and other goodies to soon-to-be shoppers.
"It's been a great people-watching experience," Garland said of her first time retailing Black Friday at the mall. "This isn't the typical experience we'd have as a family."
Once they're fed, many of the shoppers, like Bilal Salman and Ashraf Janazra, both of Mississauga, Ont., believe the experience is just about having fun, which is what they plan on doing this year as well. They wait behind Gilson in line, a face they see every year at the Factory Outlets.
"It's fun," Salman said. "We like it."
If they didn't, they probably wouldn’t show up in droves.