If Santa Claus was expecting to find a typical snack of cookies and milk upon his arrival at The Pines shopping mall in Pine Bluff on Friday morning, he may have been surprised.
Santa was probably greeted instead with a glass of wine and a plate of turkey and dressing, candied yams and a slice of pumpkin pie as prepared for him by late-night Thanksgiving bargain hunters who got a jump on Christmas’ customary Black Friday break-of-dawn sales swarm.
But no one’s complaining.
The mall’s Bath and Body Works, Foot Locker, JCPenney and Sears stores opened at 8 p.m. Thursday, attracting a healthy turnout of folks only a few hours removed from stuffing themselves during their traditional Thanksgiving meals.
Some saw the holiday shopping venture as a double opportunity.
“I figured I could come out here and find some good prices,” said Todd Mapes, 36, of Pine Bluff. “Plus, I figured I could walk off my big Thanksgiving dinner while I was at it.”
At least one viewed it as a duty of sorts.
“I’m just here to drive my wife around and carry her bags,” said 67-year-old Booker Maddison of “out around” Pine Bluff. “She loves these big sales, but I don’t need them. But she lets me go fishing and cleans and cooks whatever fish I catch and take home, so I guess turnaround is just due and fair.
“She don’t like to fish and I don’t like to shop,” he continued. “But we get along better when we help each other out.”
Cleveland County resident Peggy Sutton, 57, said the “more reasonable” sales hours and array of advertised “big discounts” attracted her.
“I have to make every penny count, so I’m a careful shopper,” she said. “I’ve always wanted to be the very first person through the store door at a Black Friday morning sale, but I finally had to admit to myself that I don’t see straight until 8 or 9 o’clock and I have had two or three cups of coffee. So I thought I would come out tonight and see what I might find.”
What did she discover?
“I’ve seen lots of good buys and I think I’ll have my shopping list filled by the time I leave,” she replied.
Scott Green, the mall’s general manager, said Friday afternoon that business at the facility from 8 p.m. through midnight Thursday was “significant.” He said the Thursday night promotion may have lessened the anticipated initial turnout for Santa’s Friday arrival, but the number of children showing up to visit and have a photo made with Santa steadily increased.
Green added that shoppers were thick again for the Black Friday morning sales, and merchants expect business will be brisk throughout the Christmas season.
Lana Hilgeford, manager of Bath and Body Works, said Friday the store experienced a rush of customers from 8 to 10 p.m. Thursday.
“We were nicely busy,” she laughed, “and we’ve been busy today.”
Large candles and the store’s signature fragrance products — cologne, lotions, gels and sprays — have been selling fast, Hilgeford said.
Pine Bluff’s Double Header — a favorite spot among video fans, comic book collectors and electronic game players — started its Christmas season kickoff sale on Wednesday.
“And we’ve been pretty busy since then,” owner Freddie Herrin said.
The store, located at 5316 Dollarway Road, will be operating on an extended schedule beginning around Dec. 13, Herrin said.
The hottest Christmas items among Double Header shoppers thus far have been the PS4 and X-Box One games
“It seems like everyone is asking for them,” said Herrin. “We’ve had a few, but nothing compared to the demand.”
Herrin founded his business 20 years ago, initially working alone. He now counts eight employees.
Meanwhile, the cold temperatures are helping to heat up the cash registers at Hunter’s Refuge at 7013 Dollarway Road in White Hall, according to Manager David Ferrell.
“We had a big line waiting on us when we opened the doors at 8 a.m. today,” Ferrell said Friday afternoon. “We have some nice winter boots that have been selling well. We have a lot of items on sale.”