November 29, 2013 9:52:11 AM
Sarah Fowler - [email protected]
Thousands of shoppers braced the crowds and the cold Thursday night and this morning participating in Black Friday sales events.
More than 1,000 people lined up around the building at Belk, hoping to snag some of the items on sale for over 50 percent off the retail price.
For many shoppers, those hot ticket items were Rampage boots.
Benisha Gordon, one of the first in line at Belk, got to the department store at 2 p.m. Thursday to get a pair of the boots for her daughter.
"My daughter wants the combat boots and the cowboy boots," Gordon said.
In order to secure a place in line, Gordon said she left her family's Thanksgiving meal early.
"I couldn't eat my supper," she said, but added the experience was worth it. "I met new people, we've been talking and laughing."
Mother and daughter Tabitha and Sarah Taylor were also at the front of the line at Belk. They, too, had boots at the top of their shopping list.
Thursday night was Sarah Taylor's first Black Friday and she had a word of advice for those considering standing in line for an extended period of time.
With two blankets over her feet, she said, "Bring warm shoes!"
When asked if they planned to shop at other stores later in the evening, both quickly said no.
"We're going home to get warm," Tabitha Tayloer said.
Belk store manager Larry Armstrong was walking outside along the line of people and said he expected this year's event to surpass Black Friday sales figures from years past.
"I'm pleased. It's been great," he said. "This year we'll double what we did three year's ago if we make our plan, which we think we will."
West Point natives Rita Cliett and Marie Reynolds were standing in line, flipping through the sales fliers and marking items. The two had boots, purses and towels on their lists.
Cliett is an avid Black Friday shopper and had been to K-mart and Walmart before coming to Belk.
"I used to get up at 4 o'clock in the morning when the stores opened at 7 and was usually the first in line," she said.
This year, Cliett brought Reynolds along.
"I'm new and she drug me out here," Reynolds said. "She didn't tell me I had to wear warm clothes."
When asked about her first Black Friday experience, Reynolds had one word: "Cold."
"I didn't know how to dress," she said. "If I had known exactly what it was all about I would have dressed warmer."
After Belk opened at 8 p.m., the crowd poured through the doors with many shoppers heading straight for the boots as a security guard stood on a table in the middle of the display.
Diane Sullivan and Tiffany Sullivan had pink matching T-shirts that declared "Black Friday Shopping Team" in glitter.
"It's crazy, too crazy," Diane Sullivan said. "This is the first year we've ever done this. Usually we go on Friday morning."
Despite the madness, Tiffany Sullivan said she was having "so much fun." The Sullivan's said they purchased pajamas and boots from Belk and were heading to Old Navy and Walmart.
At 8:30 p.m., Walmart cashiers had a line of shoppers that reached the back of the store. Jessica Pounders had been standing in line for approximately 30 minutes with a buggy full of toys.
"It's all for my kids," Pounders said. "It's all toys."
In the back of the store, tempers were flaring as confusion led to two lines forming for one item, the Straight Talk Smartphone.
"We've been waiting in line and they gave us a paper and a green sticker and told us to meet back here at 8 o'clock in this spot to wait for the phones," said Sabrina Smith. "Now we're in this spot but they took the phone down there and people are lining up down there. This is where they told us to come back to but now we don't know. All of us have been in line waiting. I hope they don't get to fighting."
Sullivan got in line at 6 p.m. with her friend, Andrea Garth, to wait for the phones. Garth said she repeatedly asked for the store manager but to no avail.
"It sucks," said.
Garth wasn't the only one who had a problem at Walmart Thursday night. Chris Levister, 14, said he was waiting in line to get a Play Station 4 when two people cut in front of him. The game system was released in mid-November but has been hard to find. Walmart had 15 of the game systems in stock. When the two people cut in front of the teenager, he was bumped to number 16. Levister said he and several other people complained to management but the two who allegedly cut in line still received a Play Station.
Speaking of Walmart management, Levister said, "They didn't do anything."
Levister then went to Game Stop to wait in line for the coveted gaming system. This time, his mother went with him to make sure no one cut in front of her son. The electronic store didn't open until midnight but by 9 p.m., there were one dozen people in line, many who had already been there for several hours.
Rusty Burchfield was also waiting in line at Game Stop. If he scored the item, Burchfield said the Play Station would be a Christmas gift for his 14-year-old son.
Columbus Police Chief Selvain McQueen said he felt the night was a success.
"Not one of those stores, to the best of my knowledge, had anything happen," McQueen said.
"It was real quiet and I hope it continues on."
Sarah Fowler covered crime, education and community related events for The Dispatch.