SIOUX CITY | Gray Thursday is starting to make the torrent -- or the insanity, in the view of some -- associated with Black Friday shopping fade into retail history.
Big waves of people arrived in Sioux City stores on Thursday, which was also the Thanksgiving holiday, to nab low-priced special items they bought for themselves and as Christmas presents.
That means people who chose to shop sometime fit it around family Thanksgiving events. Some Siouxlanders said they had no problem doing both, while others, such as Alan Alvarez, of Sioux City, moved their holiday meals to Friday. The shopping was done in large part for the next holiday on the horizon, when Christmas presents will be torn into in a month.
Leading the way in Thanksgiving Day openings in Sioux City was Dollar General at 7 a.m. Later-day openings included Younkers at 11 a.m., JCPenney at 2 p.m., and Old Navy and Shopko at 4 p.m.
An hour after that, Best Buy and Kohl’s opened. James Gifford, of South Sioux City, was one of the first four people in line at Best Buy.
"The main doorbuster is the thing you want. You learn that over the years," Gifford said.
The line for the JCPenney store had Jessica Postma, of Sheldon, Iowa, and her two children at the front. Postma arrived 70 minutes ahead of the 2 p.m. opening.
"We look at ads and we map out what we want in every store," Postma said.
She added, "Some people think it is crazy. We think it is fun."
People didn't seem to mind the outdoors wait, on a bright day when a new Sioux City record-high temperature was reached at 63 degrees, for Nov. 23.
By 10 minutes before the JCPenney opening, the line stretched west from the main entrance, then back south on a street, with 344 people gathered. That number grew by the seconds.
"My god, look at the line," said a young woman who was about 30th in the line, as she took in the mass of people.
People entered the store without any skirmishes, and in the first minute emptied an entire rack of shopping carts not far inside the door.
"Go, go, go!" one young person urged a shopping compatriot.
Three women walked in wearing green-and-red tie-dyed shirts with the words "Black Friday Professionals."
By 2:07 p.m., Postma was checking out, having gotten all the desired items, for $57.68. She got a bunch of towels for $1.70 rather than the $10 regular price. The big deal was a piece of luggage that went for $40, or a pittance of the normal $180.
JCPenney Manager Larry Morrison said preparations went well, including how the staffing was set up.
"It is all hands on deck," Morrison said.
He noted the store was going to stay open continuously for 32 hours, through 10 p.m. Friday.
A bit east of JCPenney at Best Buy, Austin Jansen, of Lawton, Iowa, had arrived first in line, by virtue of showing up at 4 p.m. Wednesday, or 25 hours before doors would be thrown open. Jansen and others were hoping to get the limited supply of 50-inch televisions that were going for $180 instead of $500.
"It would be nice to have and definitely an upgrade. I am definitely going to use it for gaming," he said.
Jansen, who was in line with buddy Zach Twillman, of Sioux City, said it was fun to talk with others in line, a total that reached 25 people four hours before opening. He never lost his place outside the building, even though overnight he walked away to his vehicle in the Best Buy parking lot.
"I slept in my car. I woke up about every hour to see if there was a line," Jansen said.
Some Sioux City retailers, such as Pflanz Electronics on Pavonia Street, didn't follow the trend of opening on Thanksgiving Day. Pflanz will be in the mix of retailers seeking to nab shoppers on Friday.
Thursday and Friday are not the only days of the long holiday stretch with a specialty shopping marker. The National Federation of Independent Business since 2010 has been encouraging people to visit local small businesses on Saturday.
NFIB Iowa State Director Matt Everson explained Shop Small Saturday: "Instead of sitting at home and ordering online or driving to the nearest shopping center or big-box store, you shop at small, locally owned businesses for things you simply cannot find at the mall.”