Hardy shoppers now preparing for Black Thursday

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SARASOTA - It used to be that people camped out in front of the store so they could be first in line at 5am Friday morning. Now, Best Buy opens at midnight Friday, and some of its competitors won't even wait that long, opening their doors on what is becoming "Black Thursday."

Shoppers began lining up at the Best Buy in Sarasota Wednesday. And instead of chestnuts roasting on the open fire to the tune of Christmas music, the portable generator hums as it powers a tablet through Thanksgiving Eve.

“It's almost like they're trying to overpower Thanksgiving.” Jason Tutt is first in line at Best Buy -- been there since Monday. In his 8th year doing this, he won't have to wait as long as he used to for his doorbuster deals.

The National Retail Federation notes that last year at midnight on Black Friday, 24% of shoppers were already inside stores. No wonder retailers open ever earlier to lure people who -- sometimes literally -- can't wait to get in.

“And now it's just sort of silly. It's going to be back in August and they'll push it back as far as we can go with it.” Even Lynn Archibald's toy store on Sarasota's Main Street will open on Thanksgiving -- but only because an employee volunteers, she says. She does not feel pressure pushing her to open earlier. “None…we don't run any specials. We don't have sales. We have our prices as low as we can have them all year long.”

She says long store hours -- and local customers willing to pay for more personalized attention -- keep her competitive.

“I've been shopping here for years. I work down the street, and I do like to patronize local independently owned businesses,” says Jeff Davis. He says he will pass on Black Friday.

But clearly, that sentiment is not unanimous. And those outside Best Buy say that whatever deals people might find online -- or on Thursday -- doesn't change what has become a holiday tradition, with a generator soundtrack. “I doesn't really take away from the event. I mean, standing in line here, you meet great people, the majority of the time. You become friends,” says Tutt.

He has done the math, and insists that after all the time he spends in line, and whatever money he spends on supplies, he still saves money by being the first inside the doors -- whenever they open.