Area shoppers hit stores in full force for Black Friday

Dec. 01, 2013 @ 09:01 AM

As they do every year, deal-crazy shoppers lined up early, and this year the first lines formed while some people were still eating their Thanksgiving dinner.

But even as shoppers flooded stores, in interviews the feelings most expressed about the economy weren’t optimistic.

Some major retailers, including Belk and Walmart in Lenoir, chose to open Thursday night at 8 instead of waiting until midnight. Ashley Smith, a manager at Belk in Lenoir, said store employees stopped counting people waiting in line when the number got to around 600. By the time the doors were opened, the line stretched past the adjoining Bi-Lo grocery store and around the corner of the building.

Up the road at Walmart, the scene inside was "crazy" and "a madhouse," said Amber Reynolds of Lenoir, who picked up a $98 TV.

On Friday, which until this year had always marked the first day of Christmas-season shopping, Dawn Barnette of Lenoir was among those hitting stores. She said the economy feels about the same as last Black Friday, sentiments echoed by a number of other shoppers, including Crystal Price, though she said she has a little more spending money for Christmas presents this year.

However, some merchants reported bigger crowds this year. Bill Warren of the Gold Mine jewelry store in Hudson said that in recent years his store has seen about 500 people arrive in the first few hours, but this year he hit that mark in less than two hours.

Because of the federal government shutdown in October, updated figures on the local unemployment rate have been delayed to the coming week, but as of August Caldwell County had the fifth-best reduction in unemployment in all of North Carolina, dropping from 17 percent in early 2010 to 8.9 percent in August. When the updated county-by-county rates are released this week, Caldwell's rate may drop again because the statewide unemployment rate, which was updated a little more than a week ago, dropped from 8.7 percent in August to 8 percent in October.