Thanksgiving shoppers get head start on Black Friday deals

Stores at the Ellenton Premium Outlets began their Black Friday deals at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving. At 4:30, the mall was virtually a ghost town, but over the next 30 minutes, the parking lot filled and lines began to form as bargain hunters ventured out seeking the best deals of the year.

It’s become a Thanksgiving tradition for many who enjoy an early turkey dinner and head out for an evening of shopping. And for others, Thanksgiving shopping is no tradition at all.

Christine MacGilchrist has been shopping the Thanksgiving deals ever since Black Friday started on Thursday.

“I’m from Scotland, so we don’t celebrate Thanksgiving,” she said. “But we do do this every year, and I never really come for anything specific. We just like to shop for fun, and it’s a lot of fun coming here.”

Thanksgiving shopping MY 3
About an hour before stores at the Ellenton Premium Outlets mall began to open, lines started forming as bargain hunters took advantage of early Black Friday deals on Thanksgiving. Mark Young myoung@bradenton.com

Back in Bradenton, sisters Holly Swanson and Carrie Swanson set up a blanket in front of Bealls 90 minutes before the store opened at 6 p.m. at 6355 Manatee Ave. W. They were rewarded with the first spot in line, as well as premium access to a large coffee pot Bealls set out for customers to enjoy on a cool Florida evening.

But coming from Michigan, the sisters were in T-shirts and short pants.

“This is our first year doing it here, but we do it every year in Michigan,” said Holly Swanson. “It’s much nicer because it’s not snowy and cold. We come out after dinner to go shopping.”

The sisters said it wasn’t any one item that brought them out. “We just like Bealls,” Carrie Swanson said.

They are back in Bradenton after a hiatus of visiting and are now keeping a house here. They plan to visit every year until they can retire here.

“We love it here,” Holly Swanson said. “There are lots of things to do here and love the water.” Her sister was quick to add, “And shopping.”

Thanksgiving shopping MY 2
Holly and Carrie Swanson arrived about an hour-and-a-half before Bealls opened on Thanksgiving for early Black Friday deals and were rewarded with being first in line. In typical Bealls hospitality, the store put out a coffee pot to help early birds stave off a cool Florida evening. Mark Young myoung@bradenton.com

Back at the Ellenton mall, Sam Lippert and husband Lee Silva sat patiently in line waiting for Michael Kors to open. Libber said she came last year, but it was after work. “So I waited in a much longer line and they had to give us tickets to get in. I didn’t have to work today, so I made sure to get here earlier. I always come to this store first, but we’ll walk around after and see what other deals we can find.”

And for Silva?

“I’m just following her,” he said.

The mall remained open until 2 a.m. and will do a quick turnaround Friday morning at 6 a.m. Check here to see when your favorite store opens on Black Friday morning.