WESLEY CHAPEL — Colleen Valdes wasted no time this year joining shoppers who kicked off the holiday buying season on Black Friday.
Some retailers opened Thanksgiving Day, so despite putting in plenty of time cooking and cleaning, Valdes headed out Thursday evening to hit Best Buy, Target and Michael’s, searching for good deals on electronics and crafts.
She returned home after midnight to catch a few hours sleep before arriving at The Shops at Wiregrass by about 7 a.m. Friday for more of the same.
“It’s been fun,” the Land O’ Lakes resident said. “It’s kind of a rush.”
But by Black Friday, which for years served as the traditional kickoff for Christmas shopping, Valdes and other shoppers were finding any frenzy had died down. Ample parking was available at The Shops at Wiregrass and, although there was a steady stream of shoppers strolling the sidewalks of the outdoor mall, there were no mob scenes or impossibly long checkout lines.
Nicole Desrosiers, part-time assistant manager at Blondie’s Cookies, had seen just a trickle of customers by mid-morning. She suspected the Thanksgiving Day openings for some stores, and the midnight openings for others, might have spread out the shopping so that the shoppers at Wiregrass came in trickles rather than waves.
“We were expecting to be busy,” said Desrosiers, whose store opened at 6 a.m.
She hoped traffic would improve later Friday, with a post-lunch crowd more likely to take an interest in the cookies and brownies she had on display.
To entice anyone with a sweet tooth, she stepped outside to offer samples to shoppers passing by.
Desrosiers had not done any shopping herself.
“I might go after I get off,” she said. “Or I might want to go home to sleep.”
Employees at Build-A-Bear Workshop also stepped outside to attract potential customers. Anastasia Stroup and John Davis put on a small show with a stuffed Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and a stuffed Rainbow Dash from My Little Pony. Both animals were on skates, and the two workshop employees spun them around and twirled them.
“Rudolph lights up,” Stroup said. “He’s super cool.”
Elves from Busch Gardens’ annual Christmas Town also visited the mall, promoting the theme park’s holiday extravaganza and posing for photographs with anyone who requested one.
Not every shopper was all that eager about hunting bargains.
“I don’t like to shop,” said Linda Rosado of Wesley Chapel. “I came because my daughter wanted to come.”
If she had to venture out on Black Friday, though, Rosado said The Shops at Wiregrass was the place to be. She considers it family friendly.
As for shopping on Thanksgiving, that definitely was not for her.
“I stayed home with my family,” she said. “That’s more important. It’s Black Friday. It shouldn’t be Thursday.”