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Early Bird Shoppers Turn Out Late on Thanksgiving

Crowds took advantage of local retailers' early openings this Black Friday, though not without some reservations.

Lines wrapping around local megastores and customers packed shoulder-to-shoulder in retailer aisles are not novel sights early in the morning of Black Friday. 

This is not so true of Thanksgiving night, but with some Black Friday sales beginning early this year optimistic shoppers queued up well before midnight.

Wal-Marts statewide stayed open past their usual midnight closing time to accommodate customers, while door buster promotions began at 10 that evening. Target opened at midnight, inspiring prospective shoppers to take their places in line Thanksgiving night in hopes of taking advantage of deals. Stores on New Britain Avenue near Westfarms Mall in Farmington experienced busy openings the following morning as customers picked over what remained from the previous night.

"I think it's a little crazy," said one Wal-mart customer in Southington on Thursday night, his cart filled with small items and topped with children's pajamas. "Midnight used to be good enough for stores."

Wal-mart employees stood outside to guide incoming customers around the sides of the store to control traffic and keep shoppers safe, while yellow tape roped off store aisles to create zigzagging lines for hot ticket items and checkout.

The checkout line stretched to the back of the store, past its frozen goods sections, while a line for televisions cut through its middle. Customers sought the best deals with little regard to the details of what they were purchasing.

"I don't really know [what model television] I want," said one unidentified customer, who had spent one hour in line as of about 10:15 p.m. "I'm just waiting to talk to somebody."

Radio chatter among Wal-Mart staff indicated that 40" Samsung televisions had already sold out by 9:25 p.m.

Meanwhile, the pharmacy had been converted to a pickup spot for PlayStation 3 video game systems, of which six were available that night, while boxes of movies had been opened for shoppers to rifle through in front of the electronics department.

"It's actually pretty cool," said Anthony Seeram while he waited with two full carts Thursday night. "We got a bunch of stuff early we otherwise wouldn't." Seeram had picked up an Xbox Kinect accessory and an LG Blu-ray DVD player in the two and a half hours he had been shopping.  He noted, however, that he would have to wait an additional two hours for midnight, when his electronics would actually go on sale.

The Target on Executive Boulevard had developed a line that took up the whole sidewalk in front of the store by 10:50 p.m., with customers being shown in groups of 30 every 15 seconds starting at midnight.  Carrie Manka, sitting near the front of the line in a fold-out chair, had taken her spot at about 4 p.m. that afternoon in hopes of getting a television and picking up toys for her children. Others had attempted to enter the store and been rebuffed.

"It's just so childish sometimes," Manka said.  "I came out last year, too, but this is what happens when you have kids."

Other sought-after items included GPS systems, Kindles and phones. One customer nearer to the middle of the line said that the store better served its customers when it opened at 5 a.m.

"They're just trying to outdo each other," she said. "One opens at five, so another opens at four," she said.

Friday morning near Westfarms Mall was more subdued, but remained busy. The on New Britain Avenue, which opened at midnight that morning, was comparatively slow at 6 a.m. but picked up business as the morning wore on.

Many door buster sales had been cleared out by that morning, though another sale began at 5 a.m. and lasted until 1 p.m. Ana Kullberg, had been shopping for Hot Wheels toy cars, an Aquadoodle art pad and a sled. She had only managed to get the latter thanks to a friend picking one up for her beforehand.

saw its busiest sections in its computer and home accessories departments, according to store supervisors. Ryan Deloureiro, an associate in charge of the store's video game section, said that they had sold out of Xbox bundles that included 40 gigabytes of memory and a Kinect accessory.

Alida Roberts, meanwhile, had been searching in vain for a LeapFrog LeapPad, a learning tablet rated among the top ten best toys for young children in recent years.

"Best Buy only had four and Toys R Us had none, so you know they sold out in ten minutes," she said. 

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