Black Friday is mostly about tradition for some families

Were there crowds out shopping in the Baltimore area on Black Friday?

By waiting until Black Friday to start her holiday shopping, Lauree Novak knew she'd miss some big Thanksgiving night deals.

But tradition is tradition.

Black Friday has evolved, with deals now starting on Thanksgiving or earlier and more and more shoppers going online. But Novak, a resident of Germantown, and her daughter, Julie Kostic of Columbia, saw no reason to change their habits.

"We've done the same thing for 25 years," Novak said Friday at Best Buy in Elkridge, her arms full of video games and game controllers. The pair had headed out before sunrise armed with family wish lists, and plowed through store after store — 20 in all — stopping just for breakfast and lunch.

Like the mother and daughter, plenty of Baltimore-area consumers stuck with tradition and shopped Friday. Some were drawn by the discounts, or the hope that a Black Friday that now extends over days would mean fewer crowds and shorter lines

Some said they preferred the slower pace at area malls and stores, especially earlier in the day, a reversal from years past and likely a result of retailers opening their doors to bigger crowds on Thanksgiving or staying open all night.

At the Elkridge Best Buy, lines were short and salespeople and parking spots were plentiful.

Neysa Condron dropped her daughters off at gymnastics at 8 a.m., then realized she could get some holiday shopping done. She bought Skullcandy wireless headphones for each girl.

Not having intended to shop on Friday, she said, "I didn't pay attention to Black Friday deals." As it turned out, "it's not crazy. It's pretty calm."

A day that used to kick off the season and allow retailers to turn a profit for the year, Black Friday has become part of a bigger overall selling period, in stores and online. But it's still a key part of a weekend that was expected to draw more than 135 million shoppers, according to the National Retail Federation.

Jim Hash, a market softlines support manager for Sears' Baltimore-area stores, said, "Black Friday is not an event anymore."

"I think nowadays, the customer wants to shop more at ease," he said. "It's turning into Black November, with retailers starting events earlier and earlier. We are trying to make it as easy for [consumers] to shop when they want to — and to become more competitive in the marketplace."

Target Corp. declared the start of the weekend a success, thanks to a strong turnout in stores and the biggest online sales day ever on Thanksgiving, driven largely by electronics.

Toys R Us saw strong sales of promotional items such as bicycles and battery-operated vehicles. JCPenney in Columbia benefited from one of its earliest Black Friday openings yet: 3 p.m. on Thanksgiving, said manager Humberto Collado. Electronics, cookware and luggage were among the big sellers.

"I think it paid off," he said. "It's been a success."

Kohl's in Timonium was busy Friday morning but not overwhelmed. Manager Nick Patras said the store was getting a second wave of shoppers, who skipped Thanksgiving Day bargain hunting.

By 9 a.m., Michelle Harris had collected a cart's worth of toys and clothes for her kids. Black Friday shopping has become a tradition for the accountant, who lives in Mount Washington and used to shop with her mother as a child.

Sydney Blum, 20, and her friend Kendall Rogers, shopping at Lush at Towson Town Center, said they come out for the fun as much as for the sales. The store had no big sales Friday morning, but plenty of shoppers bought bath balls and other skin products.

"We didn't come for the super-duper deals, so we didn't have to stand in lines and get here too early," Rogers said. "But we will take a deal, too."

Lush employee Hallie Hough said she expected a steady stream all day as shoppers came in search of holiday gift sets.

At the Towson mall, Crate and Barrel — decorated with red, green, gold and silver displays — advertised 15 percent off for the entire weekend. Crystal Carter came for ornaments of Santas around the world, which she collects.

She skipped the frenzy at the big-box stores.

"I am not into electronics, so I didn't miss anything," Carter said.

By early afternoon at JCPenney in Columbia, lines snaked around several registers as shoppers carried pillows, pressure cookers, sweaters and activewear. Allison Judd, a social worker from Laurel, went for a half-off deal on $100 pressure cookers. She snapped up two for gifts.

Nearby, Laura Thierer inspected the on-sale luggage.

"I wanted to see what kind of sales there are. I'm in the market for new luggage," said Thierer, who lives in Glen Burnie. She was impressed with the 30 percent- to 50 percent-off sales in some stores.

Wesley Rebisz, general manager of the mall, said traffic was strong from Thursday evening until midnight, when most retailers closed, then picked up again at 6 a.m., when most reopened.

Sports Authority stayed open all night. Shoppers slowed to a trickle overnight, but business picked up again Friday, manager Rachel Laurent said, driven by a 25 percent sale on Nike merchandise. She said sales were on track to exceed last year's.

Mark Mata of Laurel tried on jackets in the store. He'd come to the mall with his wife, Vicki, "to take advantage of the sales" after having compared prices online over the past week.

At White Marsh Mall, parts of the parking lot were full by lunchtime.

"Busy is good," said associate general manager Onassis Burress.

At Push, apparel was buy two, get one free. The owners expect to make as much money Friday as they do in a typical week.

"It is a crazy weekend," said Rovall Washington, who owns the store with his wife, Caitlin.

After shopping at the mall on Thanksgiving, Ronda Rolon returned Friday to look for clothes for two sons at Push.

"It was so crazy last night, I couldn't get to all the stores," she said.

Boscov manager Les Verhoek said it had been a whirlwind 24 hours. There were 200 people in line when the store opened on Thanksgiving, and it was bustling again on Friday. Boscov's had hourly as well as all-day deals and gave out $100 gift cards.

Ernita Thomas of Germantown and her family arrived at Westfield Annapolis at 4 a.m. and consulted a spreadsheet of potential gifts while navigating the center. The Thanksgiving shoppers had left, so crowds were light.

For Renee Forakis, her sister Debbie Hiebler and niece Tia Camalier, Black Friday shopping is mostly about the tradition. The three spent Thanksgiving evening together with their families in Dundalk before waking early Friday to shop.

"We do it every year for I don't know how many years," Forakis said.

After scoring a blender and Minecraft toys on sale at Target, they were on to Michaels and Five Below at Canton Crossing. And that was all before breakfast at Panera, just across Boston Street. Decades ago, they didn't have that sort of shopping option in Baltimore.

It was Sharon Lee's first time shopping on Black Friday, and the Fells Point woman was surprised at how calm the parking lot was at Canton Crossing. She paid a visit to the Michaels craft store for Christmas lights and left with other decorations, too, before deciding to check out the sales at Old Navy.

"I thought it might be a little more frantic," Lee said.

Ryan and Courtney Ples, also shopping in Canton, had to adjust their 12-year tradition of Black Friday shopping with the arrival three months ago of their daughter, Lucy.

"We didn't get to do our midnight run," Courtney Ples said. "Sacrifices."

But they still had a successful trip, getting some Baby Einstein toys for Lucy and an impulse-buy 40-inch Samsung TV for $285 at the Canton Target.

"We just walked in and said, 'This looks like a good deal,'" Ryan Ples said.

Baltimore Sun Media Group reporter Shanteé Woodards contributed to this article.

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