MANATEE-SARASOTA — MANATEE -- Thousands of discount-hungry consumers lined around the big-box retailers along University Park in search of deals in the early hours of the morning Friday.
But by the time the sun began peaking though, those once-robust crowds had mostly subdued.
At the Walmart on University and Lockwood Ridge in South Manatee, an Emerson 50-inch high-definition TV priced for about $300 was the hot ticket item.
Sarasota resident Alex Alfaro was 10th in line for the door-buster at 2 a.m. By that time, he had already been to Best Buy.
"It was worth it," Alfaro said as he loaded the new TV into his car. "The crowds weren't bad, and there's some really good deals."
As the big sales surrounding Black Friday crept earlier into Thanksgiving this year, the lines reached their peak around 11 p.m. Thursday.
Many stores had already run out of their advertised specials by 4 a.m. Friday.
At Kohl's on University Park, a steady stream of shoppers were strolling though isles at about 5 a.m.
Palm Aire resident Pam Machaj had already been to three stores when she stopped at Kohl's to buy some linens and clothes. She hadn't been Black Friday-shopping in a decade.
"I was surprised by how nice everyone was," she said. "Now I'm going to go home and take a nap."
Home Depot was the busiest store along University's retail hub early Friday, with workers serving coffee and donuts to residents that formed a line for the 5 a.m. opening.
Ellenton resident Scott Tolar said he always makes the renovation superstore his first Black Friday stop.
One big deal Friday was a $59 Christmas tree. The stock of nearly 60 sold out in 19 minutes.
"It's the best place to come as far as I'm concerned," said Tolar, who was buying tools, a ladder and some holiday decorations. "Depending on how much money I have left, I'll go to the other stores later to shop for other people."
Thousands of residents stood in line at the University Park Best Buy for the store's much-hyped midnight opening. Some even camped out there for days.
But not University Park resident Dale Polokins, who arrived at 5:30 a.m. to buy a 39-inch Samsung TV after the lines had eased.
"I woke up at midnight, rolled over and went back to bed," he said. "I was out here by 5 a.m. It was great."
In Ellenton, the cold weather didn't deter shoppers from prowling through discount racks and shelves at the outdoor Premium Outlet mall.
Most arrived in sweat suits and jackets with hit coffee in hand, ready to take advantage of the after Thanksgiving sales.
Among the group of early morning shoppers were Ricardo and Ceci Pinetta, who arrived at 1 a.m. The Pinettas are vacationing from Central America and looking to buy Christmas gifts for their children Marcella, 3, and Matias, 1, along for the shopping in strollers.
"We had to go while they were sleeping," said Ricardo Pinetta. "They have no idea we are here."
The mall officially opened at midnight while though some vendors, like the newly renovated Coach store, opened at 9 pm Thursday. "We had a lot of shoppers on the property," said Sarah Ozgun, Ellenton Premium Outlet assistant general manger. "We are cautiously optimistic about the holiday season."
Friday marked the mall's seventh annual midnight madness sale.
"Our merchants plan weeks and months in advance," Ozgun said. "They plan for the weekend and make sure they have enough inventory."
The midnight sales will expire but shoppers can still enjoy after Thanksgiving weekend sales at the mall.
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