VIENNA - Thousands of shoppers Thursday night filled the Grand Central Mall and surrounding stores.
They came to take advantage of the sales and deals despite any controversies about opening on Thanksgiving Day ahead of Black Friday, the traditional start of the shopping season for Christmas.
"I don't care if people think it is wrong to go shopping on Thanksgiving because no one is making someone go shopping," said Julie Evans, a Parkersburg resident who has not missed a Black Friday sales excursion in at least a decade. "If they don't want to participate, they don't have to."
Photo by Jolene Craig
People began lining up at Game Stop in the Grand Central Mall as soon as the mall opened at 8 p.m. to get the best deal on games and gaming systems when the store opened at midnight.
Social media outlets have been created by those in opposition to the earlier shopping hours.
A Facebook page, "Say No To Shopping on Thanksgiving," which asks consumers to stay home on the holiday with their families instead of going shopping, had more than 52,000 "likes" as of Tuesday.
That's not new. In 2011, more than 200,000 people signed a petition on Change.org called "Tell Target to Save Thanksgiving."
But stores including Walmart and K-mart have been joined by Grand Central Mall, which opened its doors at 8 p.m. Thursday.
When the mall opened, so did about 50 of its stores and restaurants, including J.C. Penney, Sears, Belk, Elder Beerman, Victoria's Secret and American Eagle. The remaining stores and restaurants opened between midnight and 6 a.m. today to join in the shopping frenzy.
Evans said she and her best friend have participated in the Black Friday tradition of getting up early and fighting crowds of wall-to-wall shoppers in every store for more than 10 years. As stores have extended their post Thanksgiving openings earlier by hours, Evans and her friend have moved with them.
"No matter what, we go out and have fun; when the stores opened at 5 a.m., 3 a.m. and now 8 p.m.," she said. "It's just something we do and I refuse to not do it just because some people don't like when it starts. It's all worth it to get a great deal."
Voicing similar sentiments, Kimberley Lee of Vienna walked in the mall at 8 p.m. and sat in a chair in the center court between Belk and Elder Beerman as she waited for her 9 p.m. shift to begin at Lane Bryant in the mall.
"I love Black Friday," said Lee. "I came early to people watch before I go to work, but no matter what I am doing, I love it."
While people across the country have made negative comments about stores opening not long after the turkeys have been carved, Lee said she doesn't care that she has been scheduled to work the holiday.
"I know people are upset about store employees having to work instead of spending time with their families, but some of us love our jobs and don't mind working," Lee said. "Really, I actually like it because I like to see people happy when they find what they have been looking for or something they really love."
An estimated 147 million shoppers plan to hit the stores this weekend across the country, according to the industry trade group the National Retail Federation.
Black Friday is among the biggest shopping days of the year with more than 100 million Americans expected to visit stores. It's called Black Friday because sales revenue can mean the difference between ending the year at a profit, in the black, or at a loss, in the red.
The day after Thanksgiving has been used as a promotional blitz and a start to the holiday shopping season by retailers. Stores cut prices, open early and close at regular time or later as incentives for customers.