Black Friday shoppers pull an all-nighter at county stores

Black Friday shoppers flocked to Howard County retailers late Thursday and into the wee hours of Friday morning, but by 8 a.m. The Mall in Columbia and stores like Target and Walmart were still full of shoppers wrapping up their all-night shopping spree.

Catonsville resident Jackie Geppi was securing a 60-inch television in the back of her Toyota pickup in the Ellicott City Walmart parking lot shortly after 7 a.m. Friday, completing a night's worth of shopping that began at 11:30 p.m.

"Now if I get home safely it will be successful," she said, making sure ropes covered all of the boxes in the bed of her pickup.

Geppi spent the night stopping at area Walmarts and Targets looking for televisions on sale that still were in stock. A first-time Black Friday shopper, Geppi said she enjoyed her night and didn't encounter mobs of people often associated with Black Friday.

"It was very nice. Everybody was very nice," she said.

Ellicott City Target store manager Krishna Campbell said there was a "very long line" outside his store when it opened at 9 p.m. Thursday. Similar to Geppi, Campbell said customers were looking for televisions and other electronics.

"Those were the really hot items that guests came in to get," he said.

Bryan Jensen, general manager of the Sears at the Columbia mall, said the line at the department store reached about 150 people an hour before the store opened at 8 p.m.

By the time 8 p.m. rolled around, that line had "doubled or tripled," he said.

With about 500 customers in the store by 8:15 p.m., Jensen said customers went straight for the electronics, including the marked down 50-inch and 32-inch televisions.

"That's what everyone wanted. We sold out in 10 minutes," he said of the television sales.

Sears was one of about 50 retailers at The Mall in Columbia to open at midnight or earlier.

After opening at 4 a.m. last year, Jensen said Sears opted to open at 8 p.m. to a jump on other retailers. It was the first store to open at the mall Thursday.

Katie Essing, General Manager of The Mall in Columbia, said this was the third year the mall has had stores open at midnight, but the number of stores opening early more than doubled from last year when only 20 opened at midnight.

Essing described the crowd of shoppers in the mall early Friday as young and energetic.

"People were having fun; very social shopping," she said.

University of Maryland College Park graduate students Ashiqa Sayeed and Nazia Ferdous joined two other friends at the mall, beginning their shopping Thursday at 11:30 p.m. They chose to visit the mall because "all the brands are under one roof" and by 8:45 a.m. they were relaxing in the food court with about 15 shopping bags from stores like Abercrombie & Fitch, Aeropostale, Delia's, Hollister and Sears, among others.

"I think we pretty much covered it all," Sayeed said.

Delia's was one of the stores to open at midnight in the mall, and after working a seven-hour shift beginning at 10:30 p.m., Delia's employee Chizoba Ukairo took some time to shop at stores like H&M. Working on Black Friday for the first time, Ukairo said a line of customers "about 50-feet long" was waiting when the store opened.

"There were a lot of customers, but it was fun," she said.

Black Friday is not the largest shopping day of the year for The Mall in Columbia in terms of sales volume, Essing said, but it is a key indicator of how the holiday season will go.

Based on her early conversations with retailers, the mall is off to a strong start.

"It sounds like a very positive start to the season," she said.

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