Black Friday shopping in Eau Claire

Robin Peterson of Baldwin pushes a shopping cart in Eau Claire Friday morning. Local shoppers looking for Black Friday deals descended on Chippewa Valley stores Friday morning. For several local families, shopping for Christmas gifts the day after Thanksgiving is a longtime tradition.

Like they’ve done in past years, Fay Werlein of Mondovi and her daughters woke up at 3:30 a.m. Friday, driving to Eau Claire to take advantage of Black Friday shopping deals.

They plan to hide some of their surprise Christmas gifts at Werlein’s house, hoping her grandchildren don’t find them before the holiday, said Werlein and one of her daughters, Amy Carlson, laughing.

Parking lots at Target and Menards stores in Eau Claire were nearly full late Friday morning, but that didn’t phase Werlein or Carlson.

“We’re normally early birds, so it’s not that big of a deal,” Carlson said. “We just try to get our list done so we can enjoy the rest of the holiday, get it all taken care of so we have time to chill.”

After stops at Fleet Farm, Farm and Fleet, Oakwood Mall and Menards, both advise holiday shoppers to come prepared.

“Have a list. Take the ads in the store with you,” Carlson suggested.

“Patience and planning,” Werlein added.

Big box stores in Eau Claire — as well as other local shops — historically offer deals on Black Friday, traditionally the Friday after Thanksgiving.

For three Chippewa Falls teenagers, Black Friday shopping in Eau Claire’s Oakwood Mall area is a time-honored tradition.

“We always get up as early as possible,” said Madison Henneman, browsing the toy section in Target Friday morning with Ava Hakes and Sophie Hedrington.

Despite being doubtful about the future of Black Friday shopping in stores — “The internet is killing it,” Hakes said — they took preparation seriously.

“Write down what time everything opens, because (stores) open at different times,” Henneman said. Hakes’ best tip? Lots of caffeine to stay awake.

“Bring extra people to stand in line while you shop,” Hedrington added. “The lines were ridiculous.”

All said they wouldn’t consider starting Black Friday shopping on Thanksgiving Day, when some stores begin their deal offerings.

“Then it’s over by the time Black Friday comes around,” Hakes said. “I feel like it’s more fun when it’s crazier.”

Werlein and Carlson, as well as Taylor Krueger and Brandon Suchla of Arcadia, who were shopping for Christmas gifts and home goods at Menards Friday, also said they weren’t in favor of Black Friday deals beginning on Thanksgiving.

“It’s nice to have family time on Thanksgiving,” Carlson said.

Krueger’s family has shopped on Black Friday for at least 10 years, but Suchla had never ventured to retail stores the day after Thanksgiving until he began dating Krueger, he said.

“We’ve gone every year we’ve been together,” Krueger said.

Despite busy stores in Eau Claire Friday morning, online shopping the weekend after Thanksgiving is gaining traction.

Last year, Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday brought in $9.9 billion in online sales, according to Adobe Analyatics data. That’s nearly a 20% increase over 2017 online sales.

The traditional holiday stint between Thanksgiving and Christmas is a shortened shopping season this year.

The shopping season is the shortest since 2013 because Thanksgiving fell on the last Thursday in November — the latest possible date it could be.

Adobe Analytics predicts a loss of $1 billion in online revenue from a shortened season. Still, it expects online sales will reach $143.7 billion, up 14.1% from last year’s holiday season.

Some local Eau Claire shops will offer specials today. The Saturday after Thanksgiving has often been dubbed “Small Business Saturday” in recent years.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Contact Sarah Seifert at 715-833-9206, or @bysarahseifert on Twitter.