Retailers in and around Pine Bluff received a welcome rush of holiday shoppers who flooded their businesses in the early morning hours of the traditional Black Friday sales.
Some stores opened even earlier, with Sears at The Pines mall welcoming shoppers at 8 p.m. Thanksgiving night and Walmart beginning its holiday sales frenzy at 10 p.m.
Scott Green, manager of The Pines mall, said that many of the stores were experiencing large turnouts of customers eager to snap up bargains.
Charity Davison waited outside the Fred’s Superstore adjacent to The Pines mall as rain fell around 4:30 a.m. Friday.
“We’ve been shopping all night,” Davison said. “We were in Cabot, Jacksonville and Little Rock and now we’re back home in Pine Bluff. We’re here now for a DVD player, scooters and a flat screen.”
Jasmine Davison described the scene at the Jacksonville Walmart late Thursday night.
“They were pushing and shoving, it was hectic,” Davison said. “One woman flew over me and she came up with eight pillows in her hand. You couldn’t do nothing with folks like that.
“If it was snowing, we would still be out here,” Davison said in answer to a question enquiring if the rainy weather had slowed them down.
“Things have been going great,” mall manager Green said at midday Friday. “Sears opened at 8 p.m. and they stayed open all night. I spoke to their store manager Bo Freeman and he told me that they doubled their original sales goal for the 8 p.m. to midnight shopping period. Margie Murphy, the store manager at JCPenney’s told me that they were completely blown away. She said that in her five years at the store she has never seen it as busy as it was today.”
Murphy confirmed that the day was going well for JCPenney at the mall.
“We opened at 6 a.m. to a tremendous crowd and everything has been going great,” Murphy said. “The crowds coming through just one of our entrances when we opened numbered at least 500 people. I do think it’s one of the best Black Fridays we’ve had in a while.”
Jeannie Shelton was one of the first to arrive outside of JCPenney in the pre-dawn hours.
“I’m here to get clothes and appliances,” Shelton said as she protected herself from the rain under the portico of the store entrance.
Shelton said that she had been to other stores prior to arriving at JCPenney and it was at times difficult to secure wanted items.
“You either get it or you don’t, it’s not that serious,” Shelton said.
Valerie Williams was also waiting for JCPenney’s to open and shared her experiences earlier in the night at the Walmart SuperCenter in Pine Bluff.
“Don’t go for a Wii is all I can say,” Williams said as she explained how she was knocked down when the large crowd she was in pushed forward to snap up the popular game consoles. “It wasn’t a big deal though. People are generally very helpful and will work to get you what you want if you have been waiting just like them.”
Betty Quin said that she was there in order to fulfill a simple request for her sister who is battling breast cancer.
“All she wants is a mixer, so that’s what I’m here for,” Quin said.
JCPenney manager Murphy said that a group of electric kitchen items including toasters, coffee makers and blenders on sale for $8 were completely sold out in an incredibly short period of time.
“In less than 10 minutes we sold all of them and we had a lot of inventory for sale,” Murphy said. “We also sold out of luggage sets we had on sale and we’ve sold a lot of skinny jeans today as well. We made sure to have enough staffing to take care of our customers.”
Green was happy to see the stream of shoppers pass by his office window near the mall food court.
“Things are really going well out here,” Green said. “There is lots of foot traffic. The parking lot is full and the lot in front of JCPenney is full out to the road and spilling over into the old Walmart lot.”
Jack and Jill in the mall was a welcome outlet for harried parents.
“Parents have been coming in with their kids and spending some time playing video games,” owner Terrance Mitchner said. “We’ve had a few dropoffs today as well. The parents are on the move. Earlier today they were checking out the sales at JCPenney’s and then Sears and moving from store to store. We had the first child dropped off about 8 a.m. and they stayed for 45 minutes and the next three came about 9 a.m. and stayed for an hour.”
Stores in other parts of town were also seeing good business Friday morning.
“Business has been really about on pace with last year, which is pretty good,” said Double Header Video Games owner Freddie Herrin. “We had between 600 and 700 people in the store between 8 a.m. when we opened and noon. We had a pretty good deal on Wii consoles that we sold for $39. We sold 40 or 50 of those. It got people in the door. The Call of Duty game has also been a big seller.”
Herrin said that his store was right on target for sales as of 12:30 p.m. Friday.
Hunter’s Refuge Premier Outfitters on Dollarway Road in White Hall was doing brisk business at midday Friday.
“When we opened the doors at 8 a.m. the parking lot was completely full,” store manager David Ferrell said. “There is no telling how many we’ve had come through so far. It’s been extremely busy. We’re selling a lot of boots and clothing and the gun counter’s been busy. Across the board it’s been busy. We have a lot of things on sale.
“So far it looks like we’re up considerably over last year,” Ferrell said. “It’s real good news.”
William Harvey contributed to this story.