Shoppers stay awake, camp out and stand in line to get Black Friday deals

For dedicated shoppers, it was an all-nighter.

Several retailers, including Toys R Us, opened their doors on Thanksgiving Day, giving consumers even more hours to shop for special deals to kick off the holiday season.

The National Retail Federation expects sales to increase 2.3 percent to $447.1 billion this holiday season. Last year, 79 million people shopped on Black Friday, the industry organization said.

Britni Gooch of Keller was first in line at the Toys R Us in Hurst, getting there at 2 p.m. Thursday to wait for the store to open at 10 p.m.

"I have a 7-year-old and a 7-month-old, and I'm just going to get everything in that age range," Gooch said. After 30 minutes in the store, she walked out with 21/2 carts of toys.

The store had all 16 cash registers open and let a limited number of people at a time into the store to manage the crowds. Yet an hour after the store opened, the line of people wanting to get in stretched down the strip mall, past a Party City and onto a neighboring street, where traffic cones were set up to keep people in line.

This was the first time Tyrese Hamilton of North Richland Hills spent Black Friday in a toy store. Usually he has been at Target, Walmart or Best Buy to get electronics, but this year he was picking up a Rockin' Rider Pony and a Tinker Bell chair for his 14-month-old daughter, Jaslyn.

"We looked online beforehand, and then my wife printed it out and she circled it for me," said Hamilton, who plans to spend $600 to $700 this year for Christmas gifts.

Some retailers opened at midnight to get a jump on the competition. Walmart had several toys, movies, games and housewares on sale at midnight, but the big-ticket electronic items such as televisions and laptops weren't available until 5 a.m.

People lined the aisles at the Walmart in North Richland Hills, waiting for workers to rip open the plastic on pallets holding the doorbuster products at the stroke of midnight. But some opened them a few minutes before, prompting a mad rush for luggage, towels and toys.

The cheap DVDs, some as low as $1.96, and video games were mostly gone in the first 10 minutes.

Best Buy didn't open until 5 a.m., but the first shoppers in line said they got there at 7 a.m. Thanksgiving Day.

Nickolas and Lou Ann Bielik of North Richland Hills had their blankets and a tarp set up, prepared for the long chilly wait. But neither planned to buy anything at the electronics store. They hoped to sell their spots to the highest bidder.

"We are just trying to make a little money on a day when people don't have to work," Lou Ann Bielik said. They hoped to get around $200 for their spots and already had someone willing to buy a few of the product vouchers that Best Buy hands out for high-demand items before the store opens. Unfortunately for the Bieliks, Best Buy management told them before the store opened that they could not sell their spots.

Kaylah Branch, who was in Tarrant County visiting relatives, bought a 42-inch television for $369.99 at Best Buy for her house in Sioux City, Iowa. Branch barely finished up at the cash register before she had to head to J.C. Penney at North East Mall to work a 6 a.m. shift.

At the Target in Hurst, mother and daughter Diane and Elizabeth Thompson made sure they were first in line to get what some analysts called the hottest deal of the day: a 40-inch Westinghouse LCD television for $298. This store had only 48 and handed out vouchers to those in line.

"This is the best time of year to buy stuff," mom Diane said.

Even though they had been camping out since 4 p.m., the two never made it into the store when it opened at 4 a.m. Elizabeth badly sprained her ankle when she was putting their chairs and blankets away in the car. An ambulance was called to take her to the emergency room.

But they were able to get the TV: Elizabeth's sister arrived in time to use the voucher.

Douglas Pham, 19, was jumping up and down as if he had won the lottery when the Target manager told him he had the last voucher for the coveted TV.

"I just recently moved into an apartment for college, and I'm in the process of furnishing my place, and this is a great thing to have," Pham said. "I'm treating myself to an early Christmas."

Whitney Boschert of Grand Prairie, who was standing a few people behind Pham, was not happy about missing out on the TV despite having been in line since 12:30 a.m.

"I liked it before when it wasn't about tickets," Boschert said. "Sure it caused chaos, but it was fun chaos."

For some families, shopping on Black Friday has become tradition. With retailers staggering their opening times, some felt it was easier to just stay awake.

Shane Whitehead was at Target with his mom and aunt for their annual tradition. It was their third store for the evening.

They had started at Walmart in Bedford around 10:30 p.m., then headed to Grapevine Mills around midnight for a visit to Old Navy and a few other stores. After Target, their plan was to head to Best Buy, Macy's and then Cracker Barrel for breakfast.

"I know you can shop online for this stuff, but that takes the fun out of it," Whitehead said.

But Peter Sham of Dallas, who arrived a half-hour before the store opened, said he had only one destination in mind after he bought an HP desktop computer for his son at the Best Buy in Hurst.

"I don't come early," said Sham, who was staying with relatives in Hurst for the holidays, adding that he was not going to continue shopping Friday. "I'm going home."

Andrea Ahles, 817-390-7631