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Shopping with the throngs

Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal

Nearly a thousand people wrapped around the corner of a Best Buy on the West Side of Albuquerque in anticipation of great savings before 5 p.m. Thanksgiving day.

For many of these people it is the one time of year they can get big-ticket items at a hugely discounted price, and for others Black Friday has become a family tradition.

Joshua Contrucci, who was first in line, gets inside the West Side Best Buy on Thanksgiving. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

Joshua Contrucci, who was first in line, gets inside the West Side Best Buy on Thanksgiving. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

For Rio Rancho resident Joshua Contrucci, who was first in line at Best Buy, preparing for Black Friday is his way of remembering his late cousin.

“My brother did this with my cousin for like eight years in a row,” Contrucci said. “After my cousin passed away three years ago we kind of quit doing it, so this year I wanted to keep the tradition and my cousin’s memory alive.”

Contrucci said he planned his arrival at Best Buy one week in advance to ensure he had everything covered.

“I make sure to come early and bring some form of heater, blankets, chairs and snacks,” he said. “Most importantly, make sure to bring someone with you because if you don’t, you’ll get bored out of your mind.”

Contrucci said he made a game plan to be first after doing a lot research online and gathering coupons.

“I want to get a 43-inch TV and a computer for my mom,” he said. “I will be getting around $200 off the TV and $150 off of the computer.”

When asked why he didn’t just stay home and shop for items online, Contrucci said he has seen items sell out online faster than they would at a brick and mortar store.

“I do it for the experience, and I wouldn’t miss it for the world,” Contrucci said with a smile. “It’s the adrenaline rush and the knowledge that if you wait long enough you are going to get a good deal.”

Although many of the big-name stores that have been participating in Black Friday through the years are having sales, there are almost the same number that aren’t.

For example, specialty outdoor retailer REI announced that it will close 151 stores and not process any online sales on Black Friday for the third year in a row. Instead, the chain said, it would pay all 12,000 of its employees to #OptOutside with family and friends.

According to a release on the company’s website, REI gives 70 percent of its profits back to the outdoor community each year. So in reverse, the company is not trying to bring customers into its stores. Instead, REI is launching a new experimental search engine at REI.com/opt-outside to inspire people to go outside.

“We are doing this again to unite people and to find common ground in the outdoors,” said REI CEO Jerry Stritzke in a news release. “Right now, I think people are looking for a moment to take a breath, reground themselves and come together. More than 700 organizations and nearly 8 million people have joined #OptOutside over the past two years. We could not be more thankful. But last year we stepped back and said we can do more. We asked how we could offer new practical tools and inspiration. So we have captured the experiences of the outdoor community and organized them in a way that no one has done before.”

According to the American Marketing Association, U.S. retailers hauled in a record $7.9 billion on Black Friday last year, an increase of nearly 18 percent from 2016.

On the flip side, total Black Friday e-commerce purchases occurring on desktops in 2017 surpassed $2 billion for the first time ever, according to comScore.

A couple hundred people line up outside the Kohl's on Albuquerque's West Side on Thanksgiving. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

A couple hundred people line up outside the Kohl’s on Albuquerque’s West Side on Thanksgiving. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

Anthony Marquez, who was at the front of the line at Kohl’s on Albuquerque’s West Side, said he would rather shop in person because of the hassle of returning items bought online that are broken or don’t fit.

“Sending an item back online is a very big hassle,” Marquez said. “Plus I can’t try it on to see how well it fits. I like to hold an item in my hand before I buy it.”

Marquez said he’s able to buy his kids great Christmas gifts that he couldn’t afford without the big discounts.

“Let me put it to you like this. As long as stores are offering deals on Black Friday, I will wait in line,” he said.

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