CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Shoppers in Charlotte woke up early on Black Friday searching for some good deals this year.
The doors at Best Buy opened up at 5 a.m. Friday morning and people were lined up, though the line was dramatically shorter than previous years when the sidewalk has been lined with tents. With inventory scarcities for computers, video game consoles, and more, combined with deals through online storefronts, shoppers queued up outside the Best Buy in Charlotte's Steele Creek numbered only in the dozens.
The first person in line, Usha Kami, said she got in line at 3:30 a.m., only an hour and a half before doors opened.
"I was expecting a long line. Like a really long line," Kami said. "But this is not that bad."
Scott Luczywo, a long-time Black Friday shopper, said it's become a tradition to get out early on Black Friday to score some deals, but the crowds have been smaller this year and last year.
"Last year wasn't too bonkers either so I kind of thought we might be the only one or two," Luczywo said. "But so, I guess the 10 or so that are in front of me, I guess that was kind of my expectation."
By the early afternoon hours, WCNC Charlotte's found more shoppers lined up at the Charlotte Premium Outlets.
The National Retail Federation estimates 64% of people will likely shop in stores this Black Friday, which is up from 51% last year. The federation says more people started shopping earlier this year than they usually do.
"I think everyone's just doing online, especially after COVID," Luczywo said. "Everyone just got so used to doing everything online. I think people are like, 'Well, I did my Christmas shopping three months ago with Amazon, and I'll keep doing it.'"
Like many stores, Best Buy changed up the way it does Black Friday, offering deals in the last week both in-store and online.
Several stores are offering multiple options for shoppers to get their items, including buying online with in-store pick-up or curbside pick-up.
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Shoppers filled lines all day at Charlotte Premium Outlets. Parking was scarce and lined snaked outside the door for most stores.
Kathy Bradford spent time with her family hunting for a deal.
Every year, she and the family go out shopping. This year they landed at the Charlotte Premium Outlets. Bradford said they had their eyes on Vera Bradley, Levi's, and Nike among other stores.
The volume of the shoppers felt pre-pandemic Friday -- with the exception of the mask -- and talks of supply chain issues didn’t stop people from coming out.
Bradford found everything she needed for Black Friday, except a new car.
“I’ve had a deposit on a car since labor day weekend they keep saying it’s coming," Bradford said. "It will be next month, next month. We’re waiting on a chip."
For now, she’s satisfied with her bags from Friday.
Meanwhile, in South End Charlotte, small businesses like OMJ Clothing are preparing for small business Saturday.
The men’s clothing store opened in 2020.
“It’s great for us the increased food traffic, the sales, even the eyeballs that are maybe just discovering us for the first time," Bradley Rhyne, co-owner of OMJ Clothing, said.
Tomorrow he’s hoping the square will be full of people discovering his and other small businesses for the first or second time.
“It’s a great day for us and any small business that’s participating," Rhyne said.
It's especially important after slow sales due to the pandemic.
Fifth Third Bank is sponsoring a small business Saturday event, including shopping with local vendors at the South End Market from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Across the street on Camden Road, around 80 local vendors will line the streets from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
In addition to the shops to support, attendees can hear live music at the Groove Ailment from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Santa will also be at Lilbelle Clothing from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m.
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