Bargain-hunters swarm to Dover Mall

DOVER — They came, they shopped, they ate.

Another Black Friday surge overtook Dover Mall.

Packs of would-be bargain hunters roamed from store to store, taking time to survey the merchandise stands outside as well.

Online shopping might keep some folks away, but there’s apparently still many drawn to doing it on foot and in person based on Friday’s turnout.

Late in the morning six Auntie Anne’s pretzel makers worked furiously to serve waiting customers lined up 10-deep. Other food court locations were nearly as inundated and only a few open tables remained.

Comfortable-looking massage chairs were filled by those willing to pay $1 for three minutes, $5 for 15 and $10 for 30. A free USB charging port was at arm’s length away too.

Pictures with Santa were available for those willing to stand in a line with several minutes of wait time.

Folks clearly traveled from near and far — for every Dover football, Smyrna cheerleading or Caesar Rodney Riders cross country shirt spotted, there were out-of-state North Caroline field hockey or North Lenoir football apparel to match.

Some kids appeared to be home from college, wearing Old Dominion, Penn State, Pitt and Kean University sweatshirts, along with a rarely seen bright orange and brown Rochester Institute of Technology winter cap and shirt on an adult.

Parents moved quickly with somewhat bored-looking high- and middle-schoolers tagging along, along with groups of teenagers and senior citizen couples with bags in hand.

Ready to meet all comers were JCPenney staffers, some described as “mobile warriors” equipped with scanners allowing customers to buy their stuff without ever getting in line.

Cashier supervisor Aileen McDonald was on the lookout for employees needing a break, knowing that patience with customers could possibly wear thin after hour upon hour of interactions.

“While a lot of our shoppers are having fun with this, many are very focused as well on finding what they need and moving through the store as quickly as they can,” Ms. McDonald said. “We try to make their experience here as enjoyable and efficient as it can be.”

Just before 2 p.m. Wednesday, store manager Jesse Brewer reported that 200 or more patrons were lined up outside awaiting Penney’s opening, sipping hot chocolate provided by the store.

A 12-hour blitz of bargain hunting followed there and at other retailers.

Mr. Brewer had the pleasure of watching one man nearly reduced to tears after winning a $500 match to all purchases of $500 or more, meaning he could spend up to $1,000 and only pay half price for it.

The influx continued until about 2 a.m. Friday, abated for a few hours and then picked up again by mid-morning, Mr. Brewer said.

The store manager expected the initial surge to last about a week, level off a bit and then pick up momentum in December in the days leading up to Christmas.

“We want this to be a fun experience for both our customers and the employees here to meet them,” he said. “In order to do that we spent weeks of preparation for the best shopping (climate) possible because without one you can’t really have the other.”

Faith Champlin and her mother Joan have traveled from Sussex County to Dover for than two decades and were back again early Friday morning.

After studying the sales fliers, Faith was on a mission to complete all of her gift buying in one day to cash in on deals before returning home to Laurel.

“That’s my goal, we’ll see what happens the rest of the day,” she said, noting her aversion to shopping on Thanksgiving by saying “that’s when family should be at home together, not at a store.”

On a break from visiting family in the area, Pennsylvania residents Tracy Lynn Rumberger and Tracy Lynn Rumberger (yes, they share the same first, middle and last name after marrying a pair of brothers) were both cradling several boxes of merchandise as they headed to the parking lot. Since 6:30 a.m., they had been buying gifts and then taking it out to their spouses’s trucks for transport.

They planned to eat with their husbands later in the day, but more purchases awaited before that.

“They’re OK with letting us shop and are looking forward to a good meal when we’re done,” one of the sister in laws explained.

 

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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