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‘Black Thursday’ brings new options for holiday shoppers

Deal hunters gather outside ElgTarget 300 South Randall Road for its 9 PM opening Thursday November 22 2012. | Katherine

Deal hunters gather outside the Elgin Target at 300 South Randall Road for its 9 PM opening on Thursday November 22, 2012. | Katherine Peters~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: December 26, 2012 6:21AM

ELGIN — If your Black Friday — or Black Thursday this year — shopping plans brought you to Elgin’s Super Walmart at 8 p.m. Thanksgiving night for door-buster sales, you were already too late to the cost-conscious party. But there were none of the protestors that night who apparently were going to make their points in front of other big box retail locations across the country over the long holiday weekend.

Since the Randall Road store was open all day Thursday, before 8 p.m. lines were already long and wrapped around the store’s interior as shoppers waited for the OK to begin grabbing deals.

And at 8 p.m., the doors were shut as employees announced the store was already at capacity. The parking lot was full, and an unclaimed shopping cart couldn’t be found. New shoppers were allowed in as other customers left with their finds.

Down the street at South Elgin’s Super Target, the line was relatively small at 8:10 p.m. — nearly 50 minutes before the store was set to open for the evening. By 9 p.m., however, that line wrapped around the north side of the store, across the back of the parking lot, down the side of the adjacent L.A. Fitness, and in front of that building as well. At 9:20 p.m. there was not a spare cart to be found inside, but were quickly brought back in from the parking lot for the next customer to take.

Despite the crowds, everyone in line was in the store just 10 minutes after the doors opened.

No T-day protests

There were no protests visible at either store for their Thanksgiving Day opening as “Black Friday” sales continue to creep earlier and earlier and to more and more stores. K-Marts have been open on Thanksgiving for years, along with Walmarts and Targets. But others such as Big Lots, Old Navy and Gander Mountain joined them this year.

And that’s not to mention bargains already to be found online.

The group Stand Up Chicago organized low-wage food and retail workers in the Chicago area to go out Friday morning and demand that employers raise the floor on wages and benefits. The demonstrations were supposed to include actions at 1,000 or so Walmart stores — including the one in Elgin — across the nation in an attempt to draw attention to labor issues and to unionize retail workers.

But while there has been grousing in the media and among some groups about shopping’s intrusion onto Thanksgiving, hard-core bargain hunters Thursday night said they were OK with the early openings and that the event was part of their family’s holiday tradition as much as turkey and cranberries were earlier in the day.

Dena Marquardt and her daughter, Melissa, both of South Elgin, were waiting in line for DVD and game deals. That line wrapped around the produce section for the sales — which were set up in the bakery area.

“We are here for the prices, the deals,” Dena Marquardt said.

They went through all of the store ads early in the day and made an attack list — mapping out which stores had what items on sale and when. They expected to be out all night, hitting a total of eight stores with early deals.

Melissa Marquardt works at the South Elgin SuperTarget and said she was just glad she hadn’t been scheduled to work. She had no problems with shopping on Thanksgiving, or seeing her coworkers scheduled for the night, and said, “When you work at a store like that it is expected.”

Game plans

Near the front of the same line, Tyler Domsten, 21, of South Elgin, was hoping to pick up some of the games and movies he wanted for himself — “Brave” and “The Amazing Spider-Man.”

He was waiting in line with his brother and another friend, all of whom have done the same thing in previous years.

Last year during Walmart’s Black Friday sales, they got applause from other shoppers, Domsten said, after the guys lifted a ping-pong table over their heads and out the doors — the only way to maneuver through a dense crowd.

“I’ve never gotten applause for shopping before,” he said.

Several people out Thursday night said they had game plans that included having relatives waiting in different lines on one store, or even at various stores up and down Randall Road.

“We will separate as soon as they say ‘Go,’” said Errol Washington of Elgin. He was there with 10 different family members.

At SuperTarget, Brian Mayer and his wife, of Des Plaines, had been in line since 5:45 p.m. They were also the only people in line for the first 90 minutes. He had brothers and sisters spread out at different stores, many with lists their mother sent along with them.

That plan was similar to the one of Neha Parekh of Streamwood. Her brother was at Walmart and her husband was waiting at Best Buy for that store to open. They came to the Elgin area to shop as they were expecting smaller crowds, she said.

Their Thanksgiving dinner was rushed somewhat, Parekh said, because they had to drive to Elgin and get in line. But it’s part of what her family does on the holiday, she added.

Overall, SuperTarget store team leader Geno Rio said the early bird crowds were pretty well-behaved, and he expected that to remain the same on Thursday night into Friday.

“We have great customers,” he said.

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