This story has been updated. Find the latest version here.
Update, 11:30 a.m. Friday:
It’s almost like the term Black Friday doesn’t make sense anymore. At least not in Anchorage this year.
The notorious crowds on the megashopping day started Thanksgiving Day at some stores. In other places, lines sprang up as early as Wednesday afternoon. So by early Friday morning, on actual Black Friday, many big chain stores like Best Buy, Walmart and Toys R Us had only remnants left over from a shopper frenzy that rushed the doors Thursday evening.
Candy Hamilton, 30, and Tonya Sell, 27, who live on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, were part of that day-early sprint, but they kept running on fumes through the night and into Friday morning.
“That cut into our family,” Sell said about their shopping trip that began at 4:30 p.m. Thursday. “But money is tight nowadays so we’ve got to catch the deals where we can.”
Both Hamilton and Sell have two children at home and husbands in the army. Their Christmas lists were long and kids’ pining for the Disney Infinity video game strong. That’s one of the things they were buying at the toy store around 5 a.m.
The duo had planned their shopping venture for a week. They clipped coupons, capitalized on price matching and took advantage of pre-Black Friday deals offered at some stores, all to save a little cash.
“You do what you can where you can,” Sell said.
Shoppers’ tales of Black Friday planning and lack of planning were as varied as the items up for purchase.
Russell Parker, 46, arrived at Sportsman’s Warehouse in South Anchorage around its 6 a.m. opening. He saw an add for $150 off a Bushmaster .223-caliber rifle.
He said some people in front of him were buying two or three of the rifles, marked down to $579.99. By the time shoppers were allowed into the store, the line had more than 100 people in it, he said. Parker waited an hour at the firearms counter to fill out the legal paperwork.
“‘I’m the type of person that avoids Black Friday like the plague,” Parker said. “With this, it’s such a good deal.”
A few doors down at Sam’s Club, a small line formed in anticipation of the doors opening at 7 a.m. Many shoppers had plans to buy televisions or video game consoles.
Steve Purcella, 61, had been in line for more than an hour by 6:30 a.m. His daughter-in-law had asked for a 50-inch television. The family had scouted out the deal together Wednesday night and Purcella was the volunteer who stood in line to make the purchase.
The temperature was 5 below when he got there, he said.
Black Friday shopping isn’t something he’s used to.
“My wife usually gets that job, “ he said. “But she said it was too cold this morning.”
Original story, posted Thursday evening:
At the Luck household in Anchorage this year, Thanksgiving was nixed.
It's difficult to serve dinner when the main cook has set up a lawn chair for more than 24 hours outside of Best Buy with aims, like many shoppers, to grab Black Friday box-store deals a day early.
Annie Luck, 53, wore five shirts and five pairs of pants Thursday afternoon at the Dimond Center in South Anchorage. The temperature was 16 degrees, with a stiff north breeze. Hands in her pockets, Luck nestled into a puffy blue winter jacket and camouflage hat patiently awaiting the store's 6 p.m. opening.
For many retailers this year, Black Friday started on Thanksgiving Day. Luck called it "Blue Thursday" because "it's sad," she said.
"I'm going with the flow now, but I wish it would go back to the way it was," she said. "It's wrong to miss Thanksgiving dinner. It's an American tradition."
But for Luck, the deals were too good to pass up, especially with three teenage sons who all asked for big-ticket electronics for Christmas. If she spent $2,000 on two Dell laptops and three iPods, she calculated she would save $1,100.
So her money-saving venture started Wednesday at 4 p.m. She had a list of items to bring, like hand warmers, a sleeping bag and granola bars. Frozen water bottles held down the tarp wrapped around her like a blanket.
"The number one thing people say when they see you is, 'you're crazy,'" Luck said.
For the overnight period, Luck slept in her car. To hold her place, she set up a dummy in the chair using her husband's construction hat, her coat and a face mask. Sometime around 2 a.m., she had to interfere with a security guard yelling at her makeshift placeholder.
"I came out and I was like, 'It's a fake body,'" she said.
By morning, Luck was back in position and people trickled in behind her. Two friends used a sleeping bag as a shield against the wind. One man pulled up in an SUV, talked to the line of about five about television sales and grabbed a chair out of his trunk to join them.
With many stores remaining opened through the night and others unlocking doors early, the crowds and deal-grabbing frenzy will continue Friday across the country.
Headed out shopping Friday? Tweet your reports using #AKFriday.