GOSHEN — Black Friday events, some starting Thursday, brought out big crowds across Elkhart County, but as the hours wore on, the crowds started to thin to more normal levels at various retailers.
“I got here about 1:30 (a.m.); we already had a couple of people in line,” said Jeff Williamson, manager of the Menards store in Goshen. By the time the staff opened the doors at 5 a.m., the line stretched clear down to the entrance of Maple City Chapel, he said.
“The TVs, which we don’t carry all year around, those were the first to go,” selling out in about 15 minutes, he said. “Kayaks, which are something we don’t always carry, were popular for us. We sold out of them in 30 minutes,” he said.
Things went smoothly, though, with no battles between customers, he said. “It’s usually very orderly.”
From the crush of the first two hours, crowds got a little smaller, but remained steady, with people packing the aisles at midmorning.
“We weren’t sure what to expect with the economy being better. It’s pretty much the same as last year, pretty positive,” Williamson said.
Activity late Friday morning was brisk, though not overwhelming, at Target and other stores off U.S. 33 in the Dunlap area, though it took at least one shopper 30 minutes to get through the long, long checkout line at at Kohl’s. Shoppers reported no aggressive behavior and said, by and large, the goods they sought were still on the shelves.
“Crowds, minimal. I’m shocked,” said Jena Bontrager of Goshen, piling some toys she had bought at Meijer into her car. “People are really nice. No elbowing, no diving for toys.”
Larisa Murray of Goshen, clutching several ad circulars outside IHOP, made her big buy Thursday night — a television at Walmart. It actually wasn’t a sale item — she would have had to wait more than two hours in a line for the door buster TV deal — but it was still a pretty good buy.
That said, there was more shopping to do Friday morning, and after scouring the ads, Murray and her friend Beth Black of Millersburg were going to make the rounds. “I’m looking for an X-Box today,” Black said.
Misty Mraz of Elkhart had been shopping nonstop since Thanksgiving night, first in Mishawaka and Friday morning in Goshen, and she didn’t plan to stop anytime soon. She reported having just four hours of sleep in the past two days, but after eating breakfast with her two friends, Fabiola Sewell of Leesburg and Martha Ramos of Elkhart, she was ready for more.
“I’ve got a second wind. I’m ready to go back,” Mraz said.
The line to the checkout lanes at Kohl’s stretched from the front of the store nearly to the back Friday morning, but that didn’t put off Jamie Gardner, who waited around a half hour to pay. With the price cuts and other deals, she saved around $100.
Nationally, Walmart announced by early afternoon Friday that they’d sold 1.3 million televisions, 1.8 million towels, 1.3 million dolls and 250,000 bicycles since opening at 8 p.m. Thursday.
That amounted to the retail giant’s best-ever Black Friday, according to an announcement from the company. In the two hours after opening Thursday, the company handled 22 million customers, ringing up 5,000 items per second, according to the company.
In South Bend, shoppers eagerly geared up for discount shopping Thursday night. Several hundred people lined up ahead of time at the Kmart store on the north side of the city.
A few miles further north, though, the crowd was much bigger at Target, which opened its doors at 9 p.m. The line stretched around the side of the building and began looping back and probably included close to 1,000 people by the time the doors opened.
At a nearby Walmart, which opened earlier, shoppers filled the store’s parking lots and the adjacent lot used by customers of Sam’s Club, which was closed Thursday.
The Walmart store included a strong police presence. At least 12 Mishawaka police vehicles were parked at the front of the store. One shopper said he couldn’t walk 100 feet inside the store without seeing an officer.
On Friday morning the same Walmart and Sam’s parking lots were much less populated and resembled a typical weekday morning for shoppers.
Reporters Justin Leighty, Tim Vandenack and Dan Spalding contributed to this story.