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Shoppers blitz local stores for early specials

By Staff
Kim West
It's been more than 10 years since Consuela Rice has shopped on a Black Friday during a Walmart blitz, which began this year at 5 a.m. and ended at 11 a.m.
But this year Rice left her Spruce Pine home with her husband, Jeff, and their 10-year-old daughter, Olivia, and arrived at an overflowing Russellville Walmart parking lot by 4:30 a.m. to take advantage of several specials.
Jeff said the family planned in advance in order to make sure they would be able to find all of the items on their shopping list before the store ran out. He was assigned the family's No. 1 item, a Samsung 40-inch TV that sold out as soon as the tarp was taken off the pallet at 5 a.m.
"I had it drawn out like a football play, but instead of breaking right and going through produce where the pallet was located, I went to electronics (in the back)," said Jeff, who works as a nurse at Russellville Hospital. "We didn't know where the TV would be until the tarps were removed from the pallets.
"This was my first time to shop during the blitz, and I think I would rather be at work."
He was still able to snag a 42-inch RCA liquid crystal display TV, while his wife and daughter scavenged for the other items on the family's list, including $1.50 bath towels, a Guitar Hero video game three-pack and a papasan lounge chair.
"It's been years since I've come to Walmart on a Black Friday – it was before Olivia was even born – and I would rather be at the hospital, too," said Consuela, who works as a nurse at ECM Hospital in Florence. "But I wasn't run over by a buggy this time, and we've only heard a couple of people raise their voices."
Steve Brannon, store manager of Russellville Walmart, has worked 26 Black Fridays for the company and said he was pleasantly surprised by the amount of shoppers who started lining up near the covered displays containing the blitz items as early as 3 a.m.
To handle the rush, Brannon had every checkout line in the store open. More than 200 associates were scheduled Friday morning, The store has about 150 associations for a typical Friday shift, but more than 200 were scheduled for the blitz.
"It's busier than I was expecting – because of the economy, you never really knew what was going to happen today," he said. "It was wild at 5 a.m. with total gridlock because of the crowd, but overall I've been pleased with our blitz."
Electronic items were among the top sellers, along with softlines items such as towels. According to the inventory staff, the store had sold out of Nintendo DS game systems, Xboxes, $88 Barbie Jeeps, Air Hog helicopters and comforter sets by 6:30 a.m.
"Anything electronic was very hot his year," Brannon said. "Customers were also buying a lot of softlines and toys."
Other local stores offering Black Friday and Thanksgiving weekend specials were Peebles, Burke's Outlet, Factory Connection and Hibbett Sports, which opened at 6 a.m. instead of 10 a.m. Friday.
"Most people will be stopping by around 8 a.m. here," said Carrie Fell, who has worked at the Russellville Hibbett for nearly two years. "Our best-selling items are UnderArmour clothes and shoes for both men and women and Nike (apparel and shoes)."
Hayden Hewett, Hibbett store manager, said sales prospects looked bright based on shopper turnout earlier this week. His store was offering two special discounts – buy any shoe and receive a red-tagged shoe of equal or lesser value for 50 percent off and buy an apparel item and get a clearance apparel item for 50 percent off.
"We had a really big day on Wednesday, and I think it will continue to stay strong through Sunday," Hewett said.