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Bargain hunters hold all-night shop-a-thon

Shoppers map out cross-town routes for Black Friday

Christi Palmer started her Christmas shopping push at 5:30 a.m. – Thursday.

Palmer said she was in line for the 6 a.m. opening at Kmart and was out of the store in 13 minutes.

After a shift as a nursing assistant at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center, she was ready for the 10:30 p.m. opening of Toys R Us, and it was nonstop from there: Old Navy, Aeropostale, American Eagle, Target, Walmart and Shopko, with friend Loyal Elton in tow.

Sears was to figure somewhere in that odyssey, as was a return trip to Kmart.

They refueled at Jack in the Box.

As Palmer waited with at least 100 others for the Shopko opening – “I already know where everything is in this building” – she and Elton were plotting a return trip to Walmart, where they could redeem wristbands secured earlier for laptops and televisions.

She, like Elton, had set aside money all year for Black Friday, storing all that pent-up purchasing on a debit card.

“I don’t charge anything,” Palmer said. “I come out here with $1,700 and go home with maybe $5.”

By 8 a.m. it would be all over. Palmer had to be home so her husband could open his business.

Like Palmer, thousands of people jammed parking lots from Wandemere to Spokane Valley to North Idaho early Friday morning, ignoring snowy roads to buy 46-inch televisions and 700-count sheets.

At the Northpointe Shopping Center, Best Buy Manager Keat Shankle estimated as many as 2,000 shoppers had been through the store by 6:20 a.m. A sub-$200 laptop was a big attraction, but discounted Nook e-book readers also were selling well, he said.

Sally Morden emerged from the store with an Xbox and DVDs. She was headed to Target, where husband Duane was still 30 minutes deep in the checkout line, where she had abandoned him.

Asked how much more shopping they had to do, Morden displayed a notebook with three pages of entries. The print was small.

Mallory Arana and her husband, Aristo, left Sears at the Silver Lake Mall in Coeur d’Alene with a full shopping bag Friday morning. They found slippers for $3.99, blankets for $2 and an $8.99 sweater, normally priced around $60.

The Coeur d’Alene couple, who were shopping for family members, were headed next to Macy’s and Target. Mallory Arana said she’s not an online shopper. After Thanksgiving dinner, they sat down and went through newspaper ads to find the best deals.

At the Shopko on East Sprague in Spokane Valley, Karen McCalister shifted her weight from foot to foot, bemoaning her lack of boots. Despite injections of hot coffee and cider, the Bullhead, Ariz., resident was not fully prepared for the transition from “90 degrees to nothing below.”

McCalister was after a $59 camcorder.

Janet Foley and daughter Kate started their morning with a 1 a.m. stop at Old Navy, but the 3 a.m. opening at Kohl’s was their priority. Shoes, clothes and a mattress topper were on their lists.

“The shoes were jammed,” especially the boot aisles, Kate Foley said. “People were grabbing, like, six at a time.” Janet Foley said Fred Meyer would be their last stop before a nap. But later in the day they were planning on accepting the Black Friday Local Shopping Challenge proposed by small downtown Spokane stores and restaurants.

Meanwhile, Ida Wilson was waiting outside Pac Sun in Coeur d’Alene, a clothing store that caters to teens and pre-teens. She’d heard that the store was giving away gift cards, but ended up instead with a coupon good for 20 percent off purchases. Wilson and her husband, Trevis, have three children, ages 9 to 12.

Their Christmas gifts will probably include clothing this year, she said, though, “That’s not really what they want. They’re in that weird stage where they’re not really sure what they want.”

She doesn’t plan to buy any of her presents through the Internet. “I don’t do any of my shopping online,” Wilson said. “I’m too scared to let my credit card out there.”

At the World Market on North Division, shoppers hoping to score one of 120 ornaments for those first in line were treated to hot coffee and cookies on a cart – outside the door.

Tom and Judy Sutherland were looking for a TV stand. Seems they had been at Best Buy earlier with a 40-inch TV in mind. Sold out. Then they bumped into a woman with a 46-inch model in a cart, ready to go. But she had just learned another family member had already purchased one at another store.

The Sutherlands took the 46-inch, $450 problem off her hands.

That’s what Christmas is about, right?

River Park Square General Manager Stephen Pohl said some shoppers were in the stores by mid-October, and some stores reported the Nov. 19 arrival of Santa Claus precipitated more sales than Hoopfest.

“That’s a powerful indicator of things to come,” Pohl said, noting sales were tracking 2 to 3 percent ahead of last year.

River Park Square is owned by Cowles Co., which also owns The Spokesman-Review.

Janice Tucker does not share Wilson’s fear of the Web. She expects to do about 40 percent of her Christmas shopping online this year. She’ll buy books online, plus electronics for her kids and tools for her husband, a mechanic.

But Tucker still joined the early morning throngs hitting retail stores. The Post Falls woman got up at 1:30 a.m. to be at Kohl’s for the 3 a.m. opening, along with her mother and her daughter. Tucker bought a $9.99 throw blanket. She said her mom, Donna Nash, got the best deal of the day – an e-reader that normally is $200 for $60 after discounts, sales and coupons.

Tucker started looking for Black Friday deals about 1  1/2 weeks ago, checking retailers’ websites. That’s a change from years past, when stores kept their deals under wraps until Thursday.

“I do a lot of the computer stuff – the sneak peeks,” she said

Tucker used the Internet to chart her shopping course Friday: Kohl’s, Macy’s Junior for her 14-year-old daughter Kennadie, Sears, JCPenney and Tri-State Outfitters, which gave away free socks at 8 a.m.

Afterward, she, her mom and her daughter planned to meet seven other relatives for breakfast.

Her sister-in-laws never went to bed, Tucker said. They headed out at midnight to look for deals at Toys R Us and Walmart.

Reporter Becky Kramer contributed to this report.