MERCED — Early birds and bargain hunters hit the streets of Merced on Friday morning, scouring the aisles of retail stores in search of that killer Black Friday deal.
"I think it's the rush, the chance of getting a good deal," said Jesika Saucedo, Merced Mall customer service representative. "A lot of people were waiting in line before we opened at 6 a.m."
Saucedo said Black Friday foot traffic was heavy at the mall all morning, with the majority of shoppers taking advantage of clothing and shoe deals -- many stores offered 50 percent to 60 percent off regular prices.
"The mall is pretty packed right now. Sales are good, a lot of people have big bags. A lot of shoes and clothing," Saucedo said, who started her shift at 6 a.m. "It gives the stores an opportunity to make profit, especially in the down economy, while it benefits the shoppers, too."
A few stores opened their doors at 4 a.m., but the majority of mall stores opened at 6.
While shoppers flocked to the mall for clothing deals, others lined up at Target, Best Buy and Wal-Mart for the electronics steals.
"I came in at 8 a.m., so I beat the madness," said Vanessa Macias, senior team leader at Target. "So we're trying to recover. The traffic in the store now is pretty busy."
Although Macias wasn't the first to open the doors Friday morning, she said shoppers who wanted to sleep in approached her to say they're grateful for the bargains all day.
"There's still a lot of door-buster deals available," Macias said. "Last year, items sold out early, but we still have a lot of good stuff right now. It'll be busy all day long."
Macias said Target received extra inventory this year to ensure it didn't sell out early. However, the most enticing Black Friday offer -- a 50-inch TV for $350 -- sold out about 8 a.m., she said.
Merced resident Julie Williams made a stop at a couple of stores Friday, beginning her shopping about 7 a.m. But by that time some of the stores had already run out of the items she was looking for.
"It was disappointing," she said. "But you kind of have to camp out to get the deals, the main items that are on sale."
Williams was among the many shoppers who were out Friday looking for the best deals of the year hoping to save money.
Angel Rodriguez went into Best Buy hoping to get a laptop, but walked out with nothing. "It looked like the prices were all the same to me," he said about mid-morning outside of the big-box store. "I guess I came too late."
Others, like Winton resident Devin McKellar, had better luck. He was able to get a 50-inch flat-screen TV at a good price without having to camp out. The trick was that he had ordered it online before Black Friday and just came in to pick it up after the chaos died down.
McKellar estimates he saved about $310.
Cody Sanchez was loading a bike he bought for his daughter at Target. He saved about $22.
"I think it's great," he said. "The sales are just phenomenal."
He said there were a lot of people wandering the aisles. "The atmosphere is kind of chaotic," he said.
MaryAnn Gentry said she went to Target to get a few Dora the Explorer items for her 18-month-old son, Dylan. She was able to get him a movie and a pillow, and was happy with the prices.
"You have to stay at a certain budget," said Gentry, who works as an in-home caregiver for her mother and grandfather.
This Black Friday, more retailers kicked off their door-buster deals Thursday night.
Kohl's in Merced opened its doors at midnight and stayed open all night.
"It's been very steady since midnight until now," said Matt Victor, Kohl's store manager. "Customers have been buying a good mixture of everything -- boots, clothes, toys. And we have 25 percent more toys this year,"
"It's like the thrill of the hunt, the chance to save money," Victor said, adding that the deep discounts will continue after Black Friday ends.
"Even after our early bird sales are over, we are still running sales through the weekend." he said.
That's good news for shoppers like Rodriguez, who wasn't about to give up after exiting one store empty-handed. "I'm still going to look at other stores," he said.
Some people use Black Friday as an excuse to get out of the house for a while.
Josh Whitfield said he didn't have anything specific in mind while shopping at Best Buy, but he wanted to check out the deals the store was offering.
"Maybe there's something good on sale," he said.
Reporter Ramona Giwargis can be reached at
(209) 385-2477 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Reporter Yesenia Amaro can be reached at
(209) 385-2482 or email@example.com.