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Black Friday more low key in Harford

Best Buy in Bel Air was among the stores with a steady flow of customers on Black Friday.
Best Buy in Bel Air was among the stores with a steady flow of customers on Black Friday. (BRYNA ZUMER | AEGIS STAFF, Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Is "Gray Thursday" taking some of the bloom off the rose of Black Friday?

Many shoppers out in Harford County on Friday, typically the biggest shopping day of the year, said Black Friday seems a little more laid back as more stores push their openings to Thanksgiving night or even afternoon.

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Some of those out on Friday also didn't like the idea of retail taking over a holiday often associated with family and gratitude.

"It takes the air out of Thanksgiving and takes the air out of Black Friday itself, because when you start encroaching on another holiday just to make a dollar, it loses its meaning," David Gray, of Bel Air, said outside Best Buy on Friday morning.

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He had stopped by the electronics megastore for a computer monitor "because I needed to get a second monitor and because it's the best deal."

Gray, like several others, however, felt a bit deflated on Black Friday this time around.

"This year, it's been kind of soft," he said of the shopping experience, adding it's "too commercialized."

Gray noted he used to have the camaraderie of sitting out in the morning waiting for stores to open.

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"It's sort of a turn-off," he said about the shopping starting earlier. "I'm not feeling it this season."

Kimberley Russell, also outside Best Buy on Friday, said an employee at Kohl's told her earlier "she thinks maybe it will change back because at 6 p.m. [on Thanksgiving], there weren't a lot of people at Kohl's. Maybe they will have to re-group."

Russell, who lives in Kent Island with her boyfriend, Greg McNew, said she used to time her Black Friday shopping for specific store openings, getting to Walmart first and then hhgregg and Kohl's.

"Black Friday is usually a tradition for us," she said. "We were able to time what stores to go to first."

Russell said shopping at 6 p.m. Thanksgiving is "way too early," and the newly-relaxed atmosphere of Black Friday has actually worked out better.

"It's been a lot less traffic," she noted.

McNew, formerly of Abingdon, disapproved of the "Gray Thursday" trend.

"It interrupted family time," he said, adding he remembers being out on Black Friday with people at 4 a.m.

"I don't like the way everything is being moved up to Thanksgiving," he said. "I feel bad for the people working at retail stores at this time. All of them have families, too, and they shouldn't have to be working."

Russell and McNew didn't get anything at Best Buy, but did find an appliance at Kohl's.

"We just moved in together and were looking for a vacuum, so we knew this was the one time vacuums wouldn't be $300," Russell explained.

Despite reports of less traffic, lines and, perhaps, excitement, stores in Bel Air's and Abingdon's retail corridor still did a brisk business Friday morning.

People streamed in and out of Harford Mall as well as traditional retail heavyweights like Kohl's in the Festival at Bel Air, where the parking lot was overflowing.

Stores like Victoria's Secret at Harford Mall had opened at 6 p.m. the night before and closed for just a four-hour break at 2 a.m. before re-opening Friday morning.

Isabel Emanuel, of Abingdon, was among those taking advantage of sales at the popular lingerie store, which offered deals like 50 percent off a bra with the purchase of another.

The University of Maryland student, who was home for the holiday, was out with her mother, Diana, for Diana's first Black Friday experience. Diana Emanuel said she wanted to shop at Best Buy while her daughter picked up a bra at the mall.

"I feel like, when you go out on Black Friday, you are going to stand in line no matter what," Isabel Emanuel said. "It's an experience."

Diana Emanuel said she heard from employees who were actually eager to get extra money by working on Thanksgiving, although "I see all the things in terms of people feeling guilty shopping" on the holiday.

Her daughter agreed Black Friday was a bit toned down. "No one's getting trampled," she noted.

Nevertheless, "the sales are great," she added.

Charlotte Burkins and Theresa Bostic, of Street, were another mother-daughter couple at Harford Mall on Friday. It was Burkins' first time out on Black Friday, and she "got some nice deals at Macy's and Victoria's Secret "while Bostic came for deals on T-shirts at Hot Topic.

Both agreed the "Gray Thursday" trend is too much.

"I don't think they should open on Thanksgiving," Burkins said firmly. "That's a family day."

Both said they were happy to be out on Friday this year, as the traffic was lighter and "you could find a parking spot."

Marina Frierson, of Edgewood, also seemed glad to have a more low-key Black Friday. She had not been out on the shopping day in years "because it just got too crazy."

This year, she came to Best Buy on a simple mission.

"I came out to get my husband a perfectly good TV because he deserved it," she said. "You save a couple of bucks."

Frierson said Black Friday may have become more relaxed.

"It seems people aren't fighting," she observed.

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