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Black Friday starts earlier than ever

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GINA R. HEINE
November 25, 2011
— The alarm clock never went off for many Black Friday shoppers today.

As store openings crept into Thanksgiving, many people were already in line for midnight deals while their turkey was still digesting. That is, if they got any turkey.


Take the group of guys trying to keep warm Wednesday morning outside Best Buy in Janesville. A couple of them set up their tents Tuesday night, eager to get their hands on $200 42-inch TVs and $300 laptops.


While Nate Keller of Jefferson planned to be parked outside the store, his family was planning to have a Thanksgiving feast at home, he said Wednesday.


"They were all right with it, though. To save money, it's worth it," he said.


Despite the earlier opening taking over Thanksgiving, Keller said it was his first time ever shopping on Black Friday.


Stores competed for the earliest shoppers this year, with several offering deals at midnight. Walmart began selling its Black Friday specials starting at 10 p.m. Thursday.


The increased hype prompted backlash from consumers nationally who say the holiday should be time for family. An online petition against Target's plan to open at midnight gathered nearly 200,000 signatures as of Wednesday afternoon.


Retailers say they're responding to consumer demand for an ever-earlier start to the holiday shopping season. A National Retail Federation survey last year shows the number of shoppers who flocked to stores opening at midnight after the Thanksgiving feast tripled from 2009 to 2010.


"We have heard from our guests that they want to shop Target following their Thanksgiving celebrations rather than only having the option of getting up in the middle of the night," said Molly Snyder, a spokeswoman for Minneapolis-based Target.


UW-Whitewater student Jessica Palombi and her mother typically spend the early hours of Black Friday getting deals before she goes to work at Kohl's in Janesville. But the opening changes would probably mean less shopping for her, she said early this week.


"As an employee, I really


didn't care that much," she said. "But as a shopper, that's kind of inconvenient for us. We have to go in earlier, but I guess it means we're done (earlier)."


Palombi, who is from Orfordville, has worked part-time at Kohl's for four years and always requests a later shift to accommodate morning shopping on Black Friday. She said she knew some of her coworkers had to shorten their Thanksgivings to get to bed by 5 or 6 p.m. before going in to work later Thursday.


Employees at Janesville's Best Buy aren't working any longer than they have in past years, but they've had to be more creative in scheduling, said Shane Davis, general manager.


He's been flexible with his employees because of the size of his staff, he said.


"I haven't had anyone say, 'You're ruining Thanksgiving,'" he said of shoppers. "A lot of people are happy they don't have to go to sleep now."


Outside, however, it meant an extra night in a tent for the guys at the front of the line.


Steve Stageman of Janesville has been near the front of the line for about the last six years. Normally, he doesn't pitch his tent until Wednesday night, but this year he arrived at 3 a.m. Wednesday—waking up his fellow campers, who thought he was the porta-potty deliveryman.


Strangers until just a few hours earlier, the group of guys commiserated about how bad the weather has been for camping in years past—especially last year.


"And the wind—that was killer," one remarked.


As they spoke, they pointed out than the sun was just about to creep around the corner of the building Wednesday morning.


Davis anticipated a busier morning that usual, and the milder weather didn't hurt for campers, either.


"It's a learning experience," Davis said of opening at midnight. "If it's successful, I can pretty much guarantee we'll be doing it again next year."


The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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