On Black Friday in Sarasota, some early risers got what they came for

Black Friday shoppers Zach and Cyndi Spellman of Parrish, emerge from Best Buy with their early morning purchases in hand. The Spellmans were first in line at the electronics store which opened at 5 a.m. at University Town Center, and were headed to Walmart next to get in line before that store opens at 6 a.m. on Friday morning, Nov. 25, 2022 in Sarasota.
Black Friday shoppers Zach and Cyndi Spellman of Parrish, emerge from Best Buy with their early morning purchases in hand. The Spellmans were first in line at the electronics store which opened at 5 a.m. at University Town Center, and were headed to Walmart next to get in line before that store opens at 6 a.m. on Friday morning, Nov. 25, 2022 in Sarasota.

Black Friday 2022 was not Cyndi Spellman's first rodeo.

Spellman and her husband Zach were the first in line at Best Buy in University Town Center early Friday, determined to purchase a Meta Quest virtual reality console for their son. They went to sleep early on Thanksgiving to prepare and arrived at Best Buy two hours before opening, and were surprised to find they were the first.

But their Black Friday strategy was about a lot more than just getting up at the crack of dawn. Cyndi spent three hours mapping out their shopping route for the day — first Best Buy, then Walmart for its 6 a.m. opening, followed by Target, which opened at 7 a.m., then Kohl’s and the Mall at University Town Center. She had everything written down in a marble notebook, and a few coupons clipped and folded into the pages.

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Zach, on the other hand, was just there to be supportive.

“I just go along for the ride,” he said.

Best Buy opened at 5 a.m. on Black Friday, making it one of the first stores to open in Sarasota’s West District at University Town Center on the shopping holiday. As the clock ticked closer to each store opening, dozens of people congregated around the entrances to Best Buy, Walmart and Target, in search of good deals or even just a good show.

Amanda Sabolesky of Lakewood Ranch, checks her watch while waiting in line with her husband, John, at the Walmart at North Lockwood Ridge Road and University Parkway on Friday morning, Nov. 25, 2022 in Sarasota. The Saboleskys and Jose Barbarosa, left, of Sarasota were at the front of line and ready for the store to open at 6 a.m.
Amanda Sabolesky of Lakewood Ranch, checks her watch while waiting in line with her husband, John, at the Walmart at North Lockwood Ridge Road and University Parkway on Friday morning, Nov. 25, 2022 in Sarasota. The Saboleskys and Jose Barbarosa, left, of Sarasota were at the front of line and ready for the store to open at 6 a.m.

That’s what got Amanda Hird out of bed at 2:30 a.m. on Friday, with her husband, Tory, in tow. Hird said she’s been a Black Friday shopper for 15 years, and she really just comes to see the excitement and the Christmas decorations. But things like COVID have changed the event a lot over the years, she said.

“It’s not like it used to be when the weather was cooler and people studied the Thanksgiving newspaper,” she said.

Even with the prevalence of online shopping and nonstop digital deals that now start early in November, Black Friday is still very much an event for retailers and shoppers alike. The National Retail Federation said it expected 114.9 million people to shop on Black Friday alone.

Some Sarasota shoppers said the promise of a great deal on a big-ticket item brought them out in the morning.

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Matt Soccorso of Bradenton is not usually a Black Friday shopper, but the possibility of a new 75-inch Samsung television for his bedroom for $579 was just too great to pass up. He was up at 2 a.m. for the TV and a sound bar, which he said was $170. But even with his planning and punctuality, Soccorso said there was no guarantee he’d get what he came for.

Black Friday shoppers enter the Walmart store at North Lockwood Ridge Road and University Parkway as the doors opened at 6 a.m. on Friday, Nov. 25, 2022 in Sarasota.
Black Friday shoppers enter the Walmart store at North Lockwood Ridge Road and University Parkway as the doors opened at 6 a.m. on Friday, Nov. 25, 2022 in Sarasota.

“We were looking online and it said ‘unavailable near you, only at Best Buy.’ So we could go in there and wait in line and they might not have it,” he said. “I’m risking it. We’ll see.”

Jonathan Santos of Sarasota made it in and out of Best Buy within about 10 minutes on Friday morning to pick up a monitor he ordered the night before. He paid $250 for it, which he said was a savings of about $200. But he had to do it quickly, he said, because he had to be at work at Chick-fil-A by 5:30 a.m.

Some shoppers were thrilled at the potential of a deal, but Jose Barbosa wasn’t so sure. Barbosa, of Sarasota, said he’s noticed that certain retailers will discount items on Black Friday to the same price they would have been just a few months ago.

“The business always wins, just like the government. It’s the same for stores,” he said.

Black Friday shoppers form a line outside the Best Buy store at University Town Center before the doors open at 5 a.m. on Friday morning, Nov. 25, 2022 in Sarasota.
Black Friday shoppers form a line outside the Best Buy store at University Town Center before the doors open at 5 a.m. on Friday morning, Nov. 25, 2022 in Sarasota.

Next to Barbosa outside of Walmart, Amanda and John Sabolesky of Lakewood Ranch were waiting to buy stuff for their kids. She bartends and he works on boats, so the early morning hours were a good time for crossover. Amanda expected to get a lot of her holiday shopping done, although Black Friday is not always about just fun shopping — one year, she needed tires, and Walmart had a tire sale, so that worked out well. It’s worth it to shop even though she had to work Friday evening from 5 p.m. until midnight and then again at her other job at 9 a.m. Saturday.

“It’s one day a year,” she said.

Sabolesky said she’s been a Black Friday shopper for more than a decade. So have the Spellmans, who emerged from Best Buy around 5:15 a.m. with their virtual reality console, plus a PlayStation 5 that Zach said was an impulse buy.

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Beyond Black Friday, they’ve gone to serious lengths to get their kids what they want. Their daughter wanted a Little Live Pets toy Guinea pig play set, so Zach drove from work in Sarasota all the way to a store in Port Charlotte to get it, only to be told it wasn’t there. Then he got word that a store in Clearwater had it in stock, so he drove there.

But there’s nothing like shopping on Black Friday, a tradition Cyndi said she hopes sticks around for awhile.

“I really like the chaos of it all. I think it’s fun,” she said.

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This article originally appeared on Sarasota Herald-Tribune: Black Friday early birds get what they came for in Sarasota