Shoppers search for holiday bargains |

Shoppers search for holiday bargains

William Ferchland

Dan Thrift / Tahoe Daily Tribune / Kmart hardware manager Randy Fulwiler opens the doors at 6 a.m. sharp Friday morning to kick off the holiday shopping season.

Pre-dawn rain pattered on a small number of cars parked in front of Kmart roughly six hours after Thanksgiving ticked into the busiest shopping day of the year.

Justin Watkins stood with his family in front of the glass doors. The three were the only ones to brave the outside as others chose to stay in the cars to stay dry and warm.

The day after Thanksgiving, known as Black Friday because the onslaught of holiday shoppers seeking bargains helps lift stores’ profits, was relatively subdued at South Lake Tahoe stores but moods remained high.

Justin, 9, was excited.

“We’re here to shop,” he said moments before doors opened and a spattering of shoppers entered the store. “I’m here to go see the games and toys.

“I love getting up this early,” Justin continued, “so I can watch early cartoons because they have the classic ones on like ‘Popeye the Sailor Man.'”

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While the tide was low for the early incoming shoppers – perhaps because of the rain or maybe because of the lack of snow which usually draws visitors to Tahoe this time of year – Christmas music played from unseen Kmart speakers as shopping carts were pushed down aisles containing video games, dolls and Christmas decorations.

Savannah Jones was looking for items for seven nieces, nephews and grandchildren. On vacation from Oakland, she said she usually shops at Wal-Mart but started with Kmart before going to Longs.

“You know, it’s like a rush to me,” she said about the early morning shopping.

Along with her husband, Darrell, Jones woke up at 4:15 a.m.

“I thought they opened at 5 (a.m.) but they opened at 6 (a.m.),” she said.

“It’s very quiet,” she added.

Her husband, Darrell, was checking out fishing rods in a sporting aisle. Savannah said she “had to drag” him along.

“I’m used to it,” he said with a laugh. “We’ve been together 35 years so I’m so used to it.”

Hardware Manager Randy Fulwiler was busy attaching discount tags to merchandise. One tag was attached to Play-Doh set, marking it down $9.99 from $21.99.

Another was placed on a Dream Journey bicycle which dropped the price from $39.99 to $19.99.

“You have to get it while you can,” Fulwiler said about the discounts.

Like Savannah Jones, Fulwiler remarked about the initial lackluster crowd.

“They’ll be here,” he said. “I have faith.”

At Longs Drug Store, which also opened at 6 a.m., eager shoppers were waiting outside, according to Assistant Manager Kelli Palmiter.

Many at Kmart and Longs used discount guides to map their purchases. Pattie Stockdale said she was following the advertisements.

Besides the joy of buying gifts, she had another reason why the early morning appealed to her.

“The kids are still asleep,” Stockdale said.

With the arrival of the holiday shopping season, credit cards are expected to be in use. A report released last month from the Center for Responsible Lending stated $8,650 is the average credit card debt of a low- and middle-income indebted household in America.

In addition, 59 people responding to the survey were in credit debt for longer than one year. The average length was a little more than three and a half years, stated the findings.

“The results are clear: Wages have stagnated while medical and housing costs have skyrocketed, and if confronted with a layoff or health emergency there are few, if any, personal or public safety nets adequate enough to help in a crisis,” said Tamara Draut, director of the Economic Opportunity Program and co-author of the report, in a statement. “Households are turning to high-cost credit cards to keep afloat.”

Stockdale said she was buying purchases with cash to avoid debt. So is Diane Morrill, who was at the new Pier One at the “Y.”

I’m pretty much a cash purchaser and if I don’t have it, I don’t spend it,” she said.

Morrill grasped a candle holder she was intending to buy for herself. Grocery shopping lured her into the fray of Black Friday, she said.

By late morning parking was limited at Pier One, the nearby outlet stores and at the Heavenly Village Center.

Claudine Dadoun, assistant manager at Pier One, said business was good.

“It’s been great so far and it’s fun because everybody’s happy we’re here,” she said.

Sidestreet Boutique owner Barbara Parina said business wasn’t dampened because of the lack of snow that thwarted ski resort openings. It may have actually helped, she believed, saying bad weather didn’t dissuade people from coming to Tahoe.

“I don’t think we have anything to worry about,” she said before ringing up more than $2,000 in merchandise for one customer.

The lack of snow prompted Sports LTD to close for the first time in its history on Thanksgiving, according to Melody Halverson, an employee at the Heavenly Village Store.

Business was picking up Friday.

“We’re getting quite a bit of traffic,” Halverson said. “Even though it’s raining they’re out there running around.”