’Tis season to spend

“I might as well get a TV,” said Jeremy Crosby, who doesn’t have any family in town while he waited for the doors to open at Best Buy in West Ashley on Thanksgiving Day.

It’s not the first year Black Friday sales started on Thanksgiving, but Lowcountry shoppers have said it’s beginning to have an impact on lines.

“There are not a lot of people this year,” said Karen Frazier, of Charleston. “I think opening on Thanksgiving kind of kills the experience. I think Black Friday is a lot better because this takes away from Thanksgiving.”

Frazier showed up 10 minutes before the 3 p.m. opening at JCPenney in the Citadel Mall in West Ashley. She said she shops every year “just for fun” and didn’t have anything in particular she was looking for, though she did snag a couple of pillows at the department store.

Just around the corner from JCPenney, Sabrina Heyward waited patiently in line at Target in hopes of getting 55-inch TV for $249. She was close to the front of the line and said she got to the store at 3 p.m., three hours before it opened.

“I definitely saw more people last year,” the Charleston resident said of the line. “I think it’s the holiday, I don’t think they should do it on this day. It takes away from the family.”

The line at Target was fairly short about half an hour before the store opened, with people wrapped around about halfway down the building from the front doors. Still, not everyone got what they came for.

Sam Smalls, of Charleston, waited for the same TV Heyward wanted, but was let down when they sold out. It was his first Black Friday experience.

“I thought it would be more crowded,” he said.

Despite the seemingly smaller crowds, the National Retail Federation — the nation’s largest trade group representing the industry — expected holiday sales to rise, but not by as much as last year, citing some uncertainty among consumers over the economy.

The group predicted sales would jump 3.7 percent, down from 4.1 percent last year, to about $630.5 billion. That equals nearly 20 percent of retailers’ annual sales of $3.2 trillion. Online sales will be up as well, rising between 6 percent and 8 percent to up to $105 billion, the NRF believes.

Most shoppers this year reported that they were braving the lines and crowds for a TV. Michelle Gabuyo and Courtney Palmer were the first in line at Best Buy in West Ashley, arriving at 9:30 p.m. Wednesday. The store opened at 5 p.m. Thursday.

“We’re here for the 49-inch Toshiba for $149,” said Gabuyo, who lives in Summerville but works in Charleston.

It was their first time Black Friday shopping and both agreed it wasn’t worth it and they wouldn’t do it again.

“I haven’t eaten at all,” Gabuyo said.

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Palmer chimed in and said the weather wasn’t great overnight either.

“It’s not worth the hunger or the cold or heat,” she said.

Richard Milana was behind Gabuyo and Palmer and was waiting for the same TV. He’d been at Best Buy since 5 a.m., but brought a friend so they could take turns waiting.

“It’s been OK,” he said. “We did shifts instead of being here all day.”

The Charleston resident said instead of the usual Thanksgiving lunch, his family would be eating a turkey dinner so that he could shop early.

“I just feel bad for the people who are working,” Milana said.

Reach Melissa Boughton at 843-937-5594 or at Twitter.com/mboughtonPC.