by Mike Lesko | reporter
Aurora -- North Royalton's Christy Koestner departed her home at 4:30 a.m. on Black Friday (Nov. 29) to head to Aurora Farms Premium Outlets, where she arrived shortly after 5 a.m.
"We always start at Aurora Farms [on Black Friday]," Koestner said. "It's a good area to shop. You can find random good deals. We've done that the last three or four years."
Koestner said she likes to go to the Ann Taylor store and Banana Republic. Later that morning, she headed to Target in Streetsboro, where she was looking for gifts for her two nephews.
"One of them wants a train and the other wants anything to do with animals," she said. "It's been a productive day."
Throughout the major retail stores in Aurora and Streetsboro, shoppers were out in force Thanksgiving evening and Black Friday morning.
At the Coach store at Aurora Farms, a line of several dozen people stood outside waiting for shoppers to exit so they could enter.
"That line was like that at 6 o'clock [on Thanksgiving night] and it's there again [on Black Friday morning]," said a woman as she walked past.
By late morning on Black Friday at Aurora Farms, vehicles had filled every parking space along Route 43 and in the rectangle toward the back, and the parking area at the back of the property was filling up quickly.
At the Ann Taylor store, Aurora's Joyce Helter searched through a stack of brightly colored women's sweaters late on Black Friday morning. She had begun shopping at 7 a.m.
"I love getting an early start," she said. "You've got to take advantage of the sales."
OUTSIDE of Banana Republic, shoppers stopped to munch on sandwiches provided by vendors in large trucks.
Lisa Kushner, general manager of Aurora Farms Premium Outlets, said it has become a tradition for residents and visitors to kick off the holiday shopping season with the After-Thanksgiving Weekend Sale featuring Midnight Madness.
"This year, we saw large crowds of shoppers take advantage of the earlier store openings on Thanksgiving," Kushner said.
"We are very pleased that these earlier openings reduced stress and parking congestion of years past to enhance the Black Friday shopping experience for so many shoppers.
"It was an extremely successful start to the holiday shopping season for the center and our merchants," Kushner added.
"On Black Friday and throughout the entire weekend, we consistently saw crowds of excited shoppers with a lot of shopping bags and long lines outside of several stores.
"Shoppers simply love the great deals, and this was "the perfect opportunity to scoop up legendary discounts at 70 of the world's finest designer and name brand outlet stores in addition to the offered savings of every day."
Meanwhile, Aurora's Barb Orosz was at Streetsboro's Target that morning searching for gifts for her 2- and 4-year-old grandchildren, including Lego Duplo blocks. She said this year's "hot item" is a FurReal Friends stuffed monkey.
"We can't find it [in a store]," Orosz said. "I'm hoping we'll find it, but I'm not getting my hopes up." Instead, Orosz' daughter, Streetsboro's Leslie Bolyard, found a FurReal Friends stuffed cat that purrs. "My real cat is going to go crazy," she said with a smile.
Bolyard came across a 16-inch girls bicycle for her 4-year-old daughter along with a car DVD player at Target. "It's been a successful trip," she said.
Streetsboro's Sam Dilts was at Target looking for Pokémon for her boyfriend along with Barbie dolls for her cousins. She started shopping on Thanksgiving at 6 p.m. and continued throughout the evening, then resumed on Black Friday at 8 a.m. and continued into the early afternoon.
EVERY YEAR, Alliance's Stephanie Vickers said she visits her friend in Rootstown on Black Friday, then they shop in Streetsboro. Vickers was looking for electronics, board games and anything related to the Disney Channel for her two daughters. She spotted a Doc McStuffins doll on the shelf and hoped to find the board games HedBanz and Life.
"It's fun shopping for kids," she said. "They love all the board games."
Vickers planned to visit Kmart, Walmart and Target in Streetsboro, then head to Aurora Farms.
Hudson's Carrie Denges said she did a lot of online shopping Thanksgiving night, then went to Target on Black Friday morning. She referred to a list on Amazon that her sister-in-law created, providing gift ideas for Denges' three young children and her four nephews. The items included Disney planes, Fisher Price Little People, Sofia I toys and a book about the movie "Frozen."
"It's a lot of fun buying things for little children," she said. "I have a lot of little people to shop for."
Meanwhile, a survey conducted for the National Retail Federation showed that spending over the four-day Thanksgiving holiday weekend fell an estimated 2.9 percent to $57.4 billion, according to the Associated Press.
Shoppers were expected to spend on average $407.02 during the four days, down 3.9 percent from 2012, the first decline since the 2009 holiday shopping season.
At least a dozen major retailers -- most of them for the first time -- opened on Thanksgiving Day instead of on Black Friday, which is typically the biggest shopping day of the year.
Phone: 330-541-9400 ext. 4187
Twitter: Mike Lesko@MikeLesko_RPC