As expected, bargain hunters are out in force

Thousands of shoppers who waited in the cold and darkness in front of Grand Junction’s larger retail stores during the early morning hours Friday snapped up deals and crossed gifts off their lists.

You might be hard-pressed to find a more dedicated deal hunter than 25-year-old Mark Shelton. Shelton arrived in front of Best Buy, 585 24 1/2 Road, at 5 p.m. on Thanksgiving day. He kept vigil outside the store thanks to a family member who brought him hot chocolate. Shelton figured the store’s sales would allow him to save $700 to $800 on a home entertainment center.

By 4:45 a.m. Friday, the line of other bargain hunters behind Shelton snaked around two sides of the store and into a parking lot packed with vehicles, creating longer lines than in years past.

“I would say that my main reason is to save money,” Shelton said.

Shelton wasn’t the only one keen on saving money this year as shoppers viewed the early-bird sales as their way of stretching dollars.

Yvonne Charlesworth of Whitewater also had money savings on her mind as she waited just after 5 a.m. in line at J.C. Penney at Mesa Mall. Charlesworth found a luggage set normally priced at $160 for only $40, thanks to a door-buster sale. She also found some shoes for 50 percent off and planned to buy another deeply discounted sale item, a double crockpot cooker.

The early morning Black Friday shopping was the first ever for her, and probably would be the only time, she said.

Despite the crowds, she couldn’t pass up the savings in a down economy and would use the rest of the day to buy sale-item gifts for children and other essentials.

“I knew it would be busy, but I thought I can’t pass up a good deal,” she said.

Black Friday, which is named as the day when retailers go from being in the red (in debt) to the black (making a profit), is an important day for stores to make up lost ground on sales.

But what traditionally is one of the busiest shopping days of the year for large chain stores was a quieter scene Friday for some downtown Grand Junction stores.

Summit Canyon Mountaineering, 461 Main St., tends to draw the bulk of its shoppers on Saturdays throughout the holiday season and months into the new year, said Store Manager Mark Wingerter.

“It’s always busy, but it’s not the busiest day,” he said.

Christmas Eve and the day after Christmas, when consumers are cashing in gift cards, are much busier days than Black Friday, he said.

Because of the ailing economy, co-owner Tony Taylor of Gene Taylor’s Sporting Goods, said he’s more sensitive now than ever about keeping prices competitive. Sales of 25 to 40 percent off the entire ski department is a marked increase in savings this time of year. Usually the store at 445 W. Gunnison Ave. runs sales of 10 to 25 percent off ski equipment this time of year through Christmas, he said.

“We’re hoping in this economy people will get out a bit and shop,” Taylor said. “We’ve got great deals going on. We know the state of the union.”

Clerks at Toys for the Fun of It, 519 Main St., were geared up and waiting for costumers late Friday morning. Owner Karin Allen said it appeared shoppers were waiting longer this year to purchase toys at the store.

“I think people are more price-conscious this year,” she said.

A decrease in inventories of toys this year may have some shoppers scrambling to find popular toys at the last minute.

“If you want something specific, you better buy it when you can find it,” Allen said.

Shopper Heidi Ragland, who called herself an “impulse buyer” in years past, this year paid cash for gifts and has spent less money overall by keeping within a budget.

“I’m paying cash for everything,” she said. “It’s too easy to get into trouble.”


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