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It’s Black Friday. See which stores are hot spots mobbed by shoppers

Need something to do in line on Black Friday? Answer these questions ...

A few lucky participants standing in line for Best Buy's Black Friday opening dared to try to answer a few Thanksgiving trivia questions. See how they did.
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A few lucky participants standing in line for Best Buy's Black Friday opening dared to try to answer a few Thanksgiving trivia questions. See how they did.

From the die-hards who waited 27 1/2 hours outside Best Buy to nab a super deal to the more casual shoppers who hit Fashion Fair mall after it opened, people were out in force seeking Black Friday deals.

Store openings and deals started well before Friday, of course, with one of the earliest, JCPenney at Fashion Fair, opening at 3 p.m. Thursday.

A favorite among bargain hunters, the store had at least 500 people lined up outside its north entrance stretching past the Charming Charlie store, with hundreds more at the south entrance.

At the front of the line were first-time Black Friday shoppers Julia Escalante of Fresno and her daughter, Monique Garcia of Clovis, who showed up at 9:30 a.m. Escalante was hoping to score a $500-off coupon the store was giving away randomly and use it to buy Christmas presents for her children.

She didn’t miss Thanksgiving for this, though.

“We had it yesterday because all my kids work, so it worked out perfectly,” she said, noting her children work in the security, retail and medical fields with jobs that have them on duty Thanksgiving Day.

Once the store’s doors opened, customers made a bee-line to the shoe department, where tables were piled high with red boxes that contained boots on sale for $19.99. Some customers walked away with boxes stacked four high.

An army of employees spent the evening restocking the shoe department. They were paid double time for working on the holiday.

I never thought that I’d be coming out and doing Black Friday sales, but it’s worth it.

Pat Walker, Auberry

Shopping on Thanksgiving has become an American tradition. This year, spending on Thanksgiving Day is expected to hit or come close to $2 billion, according to Adobe Digital Insights, which tracks purchases at retailers.

An estimated 59 percent of Americans will hit the stores between Thanksgiving Day and Sunday, according to the National Retail Federation.

Plenty of people have railed against the early Thanksgiving opening times in recent years, saying workers should get to spend the holiday with their families. Retailers are listening, and also taking a look at their own bottom lines to determine if it makes financial sense to open so early and stay open so late.

The result has been a slowing of the “Thanksgiving creep” of opening times. Most retailers opened the same time they did last year, with most of the big-box stores opening at 5 p.m. or 6 p.m. Thursday. Many closed for a few hours in the early morning Friday when business dies down, then reopened again early Black Friday.

Some stores, such as H&M, Marshalls and TJ Maxx, stay closed on Thanksgiving Day. REI will stay closed Thursday and Friday, encouraging customers to #Optoutside and do something outdoorsy.

But there was no shortage of shoppers Thanksgiving Day. About 21 percent of shoppers planned to shop that day, according to the National Retail Federation.

Among the city’s other hot spots on Thanksgiving were Best Buy and Fashion Fair’s Victoria’s Secret.

Isabel Perez of Fresno and her siblings were the first in line at Best Buy, arriving early Wednesday afternoon. No tents or heaters were allowed, so she spent the night in a chair with blankets and hand warmers.

Why?

Because she wanted the 55-inch 4K television on sale for $449.99 – a price well below what it normally sells for. The TV’s quality is worth it, she said.

“From what I’ve been told, you can see the hair on people’s arms,” she said.

She was holding a voucher that she would exchange inside for the TV, a move that most retailers have adopted to prevent running, pushing or other chaos.

Before the doors opened, Best Buy general manager Mat Nickels encouraged shoppers to be safe.

“Keep an eye on the kids. Take it slow. Please don’t shove,” he said.

Across town, Fashion Fair mall opened its doors at 5 p.m., with most stores not opening until 6 p.m. The move gave shoppers time to line up outside their favorite stores and shop the mall’s anchor stores (Macy’s, JCPenney and Forever 21), which were already open.

“It gives us an opportunity to avoid a mad dash,” said senior marketing manager Brian Malony.

Victoria’s Secret likely had the longest line, with employees limiting how many shoppers could be in the store at one time.

Carmen Solorzano of Fresno was among the first in line at Victoria’s Secret and JCPenney.

“The pajamas cost $50, and we’re getting it for $10,” she said.

Customers who spent $75 also got a free PINK tote (Victoria’s Secret line of products that are more cute than sexy).

Bethany Clough: 559-441-6431, @BethanyClough

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