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Janesville shoppers join the crowds to search for the season's best prices

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Ann Marie Ames
Kayla Bunge
November 23, 2007
— Carol Heimark lay awake at 2:30 this morning thinking about all the sale ads she’d seen in the paper Wednesday.

“Never have I done this before,” she said, “and certainly not at 4:30 a.m.”


Heimark of Janesville, like many other area shoppers, was out for a bargain. And with experts predicting a lackluster holiday shopping season, retailers delivered.


Stores are counting on shoppers who have been watching their spending in recent months to snap up the Black Friday discounts. And they need shoppers to keep coming back throughout the holiday season to make their sales goals.


Heimark had her eye on a three-piece luggage set at Sears on sale for $19.99, originally $79.99. When the doors opened, she scrambled to the display, only to find three sets.


The story was similar upstairs at Sears, where Camalee Chroniger of Janesville was third in line for a 46-inch television on sale for $989. The hot-ticket item was on the front page of the store’s flyer, but there were only nine in stock.


As consumers struggle with higher gas and food prices as well as a slumping housing market, some have changed their gift-giving plans this holiday season.


Caroline Gardner of Evansville said because money is tighter, she looked over the ads more closely, planning exactly the items for which she would shop.


“I really got what I really wanted for certain people,” she said.


“And I really limited it. Usually, I got a couple things for each person, but this year it’s one thing.”


Denise Karis of Evansville said she’s stopped exchanging gifts with co-workers, cutting down her shopping list a little.


“We don’t need (to shop for) much, so if we can come and get a good bargain, we can get that out of the way,” she said.


Knowing this holiday season might be slow going, retailers began slashing prices weeks ago, and experts predict the prices only will fall more as the season progresses.


That’s good news for shoppers such as Russ Jarr of Janesville, who was at Boston Store exclusively for doorbuster deals on a winter coat and a down comforter.


“I guess I’m your ‘typical guy,’” he said. “I’m a later shopper.”


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A countdown to the SELLING SEASON kickoff


4:31 a.m.


17 degrees.


The parking lot of Best Buy looks like a Packer game sans Lambeau Field. Shivering people clad in blaze orange, Santa hats and fleece blankets jump up and down to stay warm.


A customer pounds on the door, trying to tell Best Buy employees the line was out of coffee.


4:39 a.m.


A Best Buy staffer comes out to tell people time’s getting short and they need to find their place in line. Unfortunately, he isn’t very loud. No. 2 in line, Terri Dorsey, repeats his instructions to the crowd.


4:49 a.m.


There are 297 people in line.


4:57 a.m.


No. 2 in line hugs No. 1, Mark Pieragostini, for moral support.


“I just want to get inside,” Pieragostini said. “The last half hour … no the last two hours have been the worst. Really, it’s gotten progressively worse.”


4:58 a.m.


From the parking lot, through the closed doors, you can hear the Best Buy employees cheering and pumping themselves up.


Later, general manager Shane Davis, who was working his first Black Friday at the Janesville store, admitted that Monster energy drinks, Mountain Dew and black coffee were a big part of the employees’ good mood.


4:59 a.m.


The crowd starts a fake countdown.


5:04 a.m.


Cashiers stand nervously in front of their counters. Toward the back of the building, someone repeatedly yells, “The check out line starts here!”


5:08 a.m.


First person hits the check out counter.


5:12 a.m.


First shopper heads back to the car.


5:37 a.m.


Despite the dark and the big, orange moon setting behind the Target sign, the traffic on Highway 14 makes it look like 5:30 in the afternoon.


5:50 a.m.


The checkout line weaves through the aisles toward the back of the store. It’s about four times the length of the store.


Shopper profiles


No. 1 in line


Name: Mark Pieragostini.


Lives: Janesville.


Age: 17.


Occupation: Student at Craig High School and employee at ShopKo electronics department.


Got in line: 9:30 a.m. Thursday.


Shopping for: A hard drive. He got one last year, but it was already full. He also was buying a MP3 player for his mom.


Quote: “I felt kind of stupid being the only person here for two hours. Everyone else was sitting in their vans keeping warm.”


Other accomplishments: Pieragostini lives close enough to the store that he walked there. He has to be at work at 10 a.m. today for an eight-hour shift at ShopKo.


No. 2 in line


Name: Terri Dorsey.


Lives: Janesville.


Age: 36.


Occupation: Taking auto tech classes at Blackhawk Technical College.


Got in line: 11:30 a.m. Thursday.


Shopping for: A new desktop computer for her husband. His “conveniently blew up” Wednesday.


Shopping statistics: This is Dorsey’s third year shopping at Best Buy on Black Friday. Last year she was third in line, and in 2005, she was No. 8.


Somewhere around No. 200 in line


Names: Astrid Chrouser, St. Louis, Mo., stay-at-home mom, and Corrine Milberger, Janesville, employee of the Wisconsin School for the Blind and Visually Impaired.


Got in line: 4:30 a.m. Friday.


Shopping for: Christmas presents.


Shopping plan: Chrouser was in Janesville visiting her best friend, Milberger. The two planned to hit Target, Wal-Mart and Kohl’s. The last stop will be Michael’s, “not that the husbands know about that.”


Quote: “I do this every year. It’s fun. You rush around. Then, when you get in line, you get to know the people around you.” (Milberger)


First person to check out


Name: Mike Wooden.


Lives: Janesville.


Work: Unemployed.


Quote: “I’m ‘me’ shopping. It’s worth it … Five minutes of shopping, and I’m done. Well, after eight hours of waiting.”


Shopping technique: The blaze orange clad Wooden bought things for himself and his best friend, James. James was at Staples doing the same thing.


“We’re like football players. We attack everything,” said Wooden, who was not a football player.


Wooden bought “Guitar Hero II,” among other things.



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