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November 22. 2012 10:56PM

Black Friday brings out crowds for bargains


Michelle Nichols of Litchfield and Sang Din of Manchester bundle up against the cold while waiting for the start of Black Friday shopping outside the Best Buy store at the Mall of New Hampshire on Thursday afternoon. They were third and fourth in the line, with both saying they wanted to purchase a high-definition television. (TIM BUCKLAND/ Union Leader)


Lindsey Thibeault of Manchester laughs with her daughter, Gianna, as they waited for the start of Black Friday outside Best Buy at the Mall of New Hampshire in Manchester on Thursday afternoon. For the second year in a row, Thibeault was second in line at the electronics store for Black Friday shopping. In front of her this year was Chuck Handy of Derry, left. (TIM BUCKLAND/ Union Leader)


Shoppers exit Walmart in Manchester in the afternoon on Thanksgiving Day. (Mark Bolton/Union Leader)

MANCHESTER - Computer point-of-sale terminals flashed to life Thursday night, and the annual shopping frenzy known as Black Friday was under way.

The Walmart chain was the first to start selling selected merchandise at steeply discounted prices in the retail industry's annual frenetic effort to get as much cash out of consumers' pockets as early as possible during the holiday season.

The chain was open despite the Thanksgiving holiday, but the first Black Friday-priced items were not available for purchase until 8 p.m.

Early birds waited patiently for their place at more than a dozen check-out stations set aside to accept Black Friday sales.

"We've been doing this for years," said Dawn Proulx of Bedford, among the first in a line of some 150 carriages queued up shortly before sales terminals opened. "It's our yearly tradition."

Higher-end retailers were waiting until Friday actually began before opening the doors.

The Best Buy chain's store at the Mall of New Hampshire had a line that snaked around the building as the clock counted down. For the second year in a row, Lindsey Thibeault of Manchester stood second in line as shoppers began lining up outside.

"It's my lot in life to be Number 2," she said before unbundling a Thanksgiving dinner she brought for herself and her daughter, Gianna, 11, who waited with her mother, also for the second year in a row.

Thibeault said she wanted to be first, but when she arrived at the store at 6 a.m. Thursday, she saw Chuck Handy of Derry already there. Handy made camp nine hours earlier, at 9 p.m. Wednesday.

"No, not at all," Handy said when asked whether he would consider switching spots.

Best Buy, which opened at midnight Thursday, enticed shoppers with a "Door Buster" deal on a 40-inch Toshiba high-definition television on sale for $179, a fraction of the everyday cost of $419, according to bestbuy.com.

That television is what drew Thibeault and the two customers behind her, Michelle Nichols of Litchfield and Sang Din of Manchester.

"It's fun and stressful," said Nichols, who was passing the time by crocheting a U.S. flag blanket. "I just want to make sure I get the TV, and I'm not waiting (a lot of) hours for nothing."

Handy, though, said he wasn't interested in the television.

"I'm going to get a computer on sale," he said. "Mine crashed."

Best Buy was not the only major retailer that had customers lining up by afternoon. Shoppers began lining up at Sears by late afternoon.

In addition to Walmart's 8 p.m. kickoff, Toys 'R' Us opened at 8 p.m. Thursday.

But most stores opened at midnight or later this morning.

A year ago, Toys 'R' Us opened first, at 9 p.m. on Thanksgiving, with Walmart opening at 10 p.m. and most other stores opening at midnight. Two years ago, the earliest openings were at 4 a.m. on Black Friday.

At Toys 'R' Us, people queued up a few hours before opening to be among the first in the store were looking to buy Lego building sets.

Lauren Antonelli of Auburn said she couldn't resist the 40 percent off deals on the popular toys.

"They're for my 7-year-old son," Antonelli said. "But I'm sure my husband will be using them, too."

Customers at Walmart lined up for Black Friday deals that included iPads for $399 that came with a $75 Walmart gift card, as well as a 40-inch Emerson high-definition television for $198 and an LG Blu-ray player for $38.

A game plan was as important an early start for shoppers hustling to buy limited supplies of some items.

Proulx said she arrived with a five-person team that commandeered three carriages and took their places near the front of the line waiting for the 8 p.m. checkout time.

"We each get a big thing, and then get in line with our carriage," Proulx said. "Then the others go through the aisles for the little things and bring them to us."

Tony Monteiro of Atkinson and Elaine Jones of Merrimac, Mass., said they have grudgingly accepted the earlier hours that have pressed the unofficial first day of Christmas shopping back into Thanksgiving Day.

"We don't really like it, but it's our tradition," Proulx said. "You have to keep going."

Not everyone caught the shopping frenzy, however.

One grandmotherly woman appeared confused after trekking through the crowded parking lot to encounter the barriers and yellow tape that directed Black Friday shoppers.

"I'm just here for a bag of flour," she said. "This is crazy."

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Tim Buckland may be reached at tbuckland@unionleader.com. Bill Smith may be reached at wsmith@unionleader.com.


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