Shopping on Thanksgiving night is going to be a hit if the lines at Akron area retailers were any indication.
Michael Post found himself first in line at the Toys R Us store in Montrose when he arrived about 3 p.m. for the store’s 8 p.m. opening. The Barberton resident was filling in for his mother, who he said is too ill to do the holiday shopping this year.
“Otherwise, I’d be sitting at home watching sports,” Post said.
By 4 p.m., Post was keeping company with three female shoppers who brought chairs to wait for sales to begin.
Shortly after 7, about 120 people were in a line that wrapped around the corner of the store. More cars kept driving into the store’s parking lot.
The nearby Wal-Mart parking lot was filled to capacity by the time the retail giant, which had been open all day, started its 8 p.m. doorbuster specials.
And a little drive up West Market Street, a long line of people waited outside the Fairlawn Target at 8:45 p.m. for that store’s 9 p.m. opening.
Major retailers such as Wal-Mart, Target and Toys R Us gained national attention when they announced they were going to have special sales on Thanksgiving evening this year instead of waiting for Black Friday, the day after the holiday. Some Wal-Mart employees planned to stage walkouts over the Thanksgiving hours.
All appeared calm in the Akron area, though.
Wal-Mart stores were open well before the pre-Black Friday specials started.
Shortly after 3:30 p.m., Paula and Troy Barlett walked out of the Montrose Walmart with a basket full of holiday items, including Christmas tree lights.
Other shoppers walked in and out of the store, passing by the special sales items that were being kept under plastic wrap until the appropriate time.
“We did do some Christmas shopping,” Paula Barlett said.
But she and her husband wanted to be home in Akron before the crowds arrived for the specials.
“It’s going to be crazy at 8 o’clock,” she said. “We’re going to be home at 8 o’clock, watching football.”
A Wal-Mart employee in the parking lot Thursday afternoon said he was more concerned about taking care of customers than possible plans by Wal-Mart employees nationwide to stage walkouts to protest working conditions.
Elsewhere in the Montrose shopping district in late afternoon, traffic was generally light.
There were five tents pitched outside the Best Buy electronics store in addition to a camper hitched to a truck. The parking lot at the Cracker Barrel restaurant next door was full at 4 p.m.
There were numerous cars parked at the Regal Cinemas as well. It looked as though many people who finished their turkey dinners may have wanted to watch the Life of Pi for dessert.
As the Toys R Us employees prepared to open at 8, store manager Joe Becka stood on a counter and combined a pep talk with reminders on what to do once customers came through the front doors. About 100 Toys R Us employees were scheduled to work different shifts starting Thursday evening to the closing at the end of Black Friday.
“Number one, keep in mind safety for yourselves and for guests,” Becka said.
At 7:55 p.m., Becka played the Survivor song Eye of the Tiger over the intercom system to pump up the staff.
The opening minutes definitely weren’t rocky.
Cashiers double-checked to make sure they had the day’s shopping circular on hand.
Becka asked, “You guys, you ready? Guys, we’re opening up!”
Post was first in and grabbed a blue shopping cart. A store employee handed him a SpongeBob SquarePants shopping bag filled with about $30 of small items and coupons. He quickly headed off to the back of the store, where the electronic items are displayed.
Post said the initial plan called for his mother to stay in touch with him via cell phone to help guide him as he shopped. But that fell through and he was on his own.
“My mom wanted me to pick up a Garmin [GPS device] for her,” he said. “I plan on getting a couple of things my mom would usually get for her grandkids.”
Post, who is 36, said he has two children, ages 1 and 3, and he planned to look for items for them including a Wii gaming system.
“I don’t know what I’m doing. It’s kind of humorous,” he said, smiling.
He noted that he at least got the Garmin and the Wii.
“Now I get to walk around aimlessly,” he said.
Jim Mackinnon can be reached at 330-996-3544 or firstname.lastname@example.org.