Stores opened earlier Thursday and Friday, and the bargain hunters are getting younger. Welcome to the new Black Friday.
Strollers are a common site at the Wyoming Valley Mall, but usually not in the wee morning hours. But that was part of the ambience for Black Friday 2012.
Teens without parents and toddlers with parents made up the bulk of the crowd early Friday morning.
Gone are the days of 5 a.m. or later openings at a majority of retailers, replaced with Thursday night openings.
For some, like Katie Nork of Mountain Top, the earlier openings interfered with family time on Thanksgiving. But she still couldn‚??t pass up the great deals offered at Target, where she got a 32-inch television, and at Best Buy in Wilkes-Barre Township, where she purchased an iPod Nano.
Though she spent more than $300 by 1 a.m. Friday, she said she‚??d rather the sales started Friday morning so people could get more family time and some sleep.
Janice Blankenship, 46, of New Hope, Bucks County, was visiting relatives in Dallas and also went shopping at Best Buy. She noted how many younger people were out this year compared to the 12 prior years she‚??s taken part in the mayhem that is Black Friday.
‚??The next thing you‚??ll see is stores offering day care services while parents shop,‚?Ě she said with a laugh.
Not too far behind her in line was Demetrius Yeager, 11, of Parsons, who was shopping for items with his grandmother, Linda Matello of Swoyersville.
Matello said she liked the earlier openings.
‚??You can fit more in this way,‚?Ě she said, adding there were still stops to be made including the Bon-Ton. And her grandson liked being part of the Black Friday madness, something that a 5 a.m. opening might have prevented.
Back at the Wyoming Valley Mall, a disc jockey hired by Macy‚??s to entertain shoppers near its entrance drew a crowd of teens, some of them dancing.
Macy‚??s store manager Cathy Moraca said she‚??s definitely noticed a younger crowd this year and believed the earlier openings by many stores led to it. The early start also led to more traffic in her store, she said.
They drew Maureen Mullen, of Avoca, out to the mall for her first Black Friday in a while. And she brought her stepdaughter, Mikayla, 9, along.
Mikayla admitted she had never stayed up so late. Her previous record was 11 p.m. Black Friday helped her shatter that record by more than a few hours, she noted with a grin.
‚??She wanted to do it,‚?Ě said Mullen, as she grasped item-filled bags from Finish Line and Bon-Ton.
Not all shoppers were out well past their bed time.
The trio of Leo Szmurlo, 22, of Hanover Township, Andrew Lescoe, 18, of Nanticoke and Doug Novitski, 22, of Nanticoke, were at the mall socializing with others and taking in the sights and sounds of Black Friday at 2 a.m. They were among the elder statesmen standing near the Sears entrance as tweens and teens with no parents in sight shuffled by with smartphones in hand.
Novitski also took advantage of a deal at Pac-Sun that netted him three pair of jeans for $50. He said one pair could typically cost him that much.
Even with the good deals, Novitski said he could have waited until later Friday morning to shop and chided retailers for rushing to open earlier and earlier each year.
But Moraca, the manager at Macy‚??s, said this is a sign of the times.
‚??You have to be competitive. It‚??s the environment we‚??re in. It‚??s the retail world. Look at the traffic it brings,‚?Ě she added, noting the first hour of sales beat last year‚??s first hour that exceeded company expectations at the Wilkes-Barre store.
J.C. Penney was among the last major retailers to open, holding off until 6 a.m. Friday.
And Debbie Bowen started her Friday in the store‚??s line hoping to get a sweater or two.
She doesn‚??t like the earlier openings, saying ‚??it ruins Thanksgiving‚?Ě and said she appreciates J.C. Penney sticking with the traditional Black Friday opening time occurring on, well, Friday.