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The calm before the stores

Black Friday shoppers report thinner crowds, more laid-back atmosphere

Kimberly Chunko of Northern Cambria unloads her much-coveted cart after shopping the first level of Boscov’s on Friday morning at Logan Town Centre. Chunko spurned several offers to take her cart, as she was headed back inside to shop on the store’s second level.

Altoona experienced a calmer Black Friday than normal, according to local shoppers.

Deborah Liegey, 53, of Morrisdale and Amber Liegey, 23, of Altoona were about to enter the Logan Valley Mall for their holiday shopping. The mother-daughter duo said their experience this year has been different than previous years, due to fewer people out and about.

“I didn’t get pushed or hit with carts,” Deborah Liegey said, laughing. “And people aren’t arguing.”

“That part is nice,” Amber Liegey said.

Inside the mall, Nicole Wilbur and Angela Brandt were ringing up purchases for customers in Gardner’s Candies.

Black Friday shoppers leave Kohl’s on Friday morning. Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski

Wilbur, the store’s manager, said it’s been an “odd year.” She said many of her employees are new seasonal workers, so she spent a lot of time getting them “hyped” for the influx of shoppers.

“This is our first year doing Black Friday sales,” Wilbur said.

But when Wilbur went to work at 7 a.m.,

she said people were lined up at GameStop and Victoria’s Secret, but hardly anywhere else. She reminisced on her experiences as a shopper during past Black Fridays.

“We would go to each store in the mall,” she said. “Now it seems people are shopping just for specific items.”

Brandt chimed in on the change from previous years.

“I remember when we’d be lined up, stuck in traffic at a light,” she said.

This year, some of the mall’s parking lots were full at about 10:30 a.m., and inside, many couples and small groups strolled past stores, but it was a far cry from the crazed, shoulder-to-shoulder mobs Black Friday shopping has attracted in the past decades.

Additionally, there was only mild traffic in the city through late morning.

Many of those interviewed brought up COVID-19 and online shopping as potential reasons for the seemingly lower numbers than usual.

Bobbi Rhodes, 35, of Altoona was walking out of Petco in the Target plaza. She said she does about 50% of her orders in person and 50% online.

“Some places only have deals online,” she said. “One perk of shopping online is the free shipping and bigger discounts.”

Nearby, Trevor Weyandt, 17, of Chestnut Ridge was going into Sportsman’s Warehouse. He said he also did about half of his shopping online.

Still, others said they still prefer in-person shopping to online.

Bob George, 54, of Ebensberg waited in line to enter Best Buy. He said more people may be shopping online due to COVID-19, but he prefers being able to see the item in person and being able to touch it. He said Best Buy was the first store he was visiting for the day.

“Besides standing outside with a mask on, this year seems pretty similar to prior ones,” he said, though someone nearby said that in prior years, the line would have been longer. George agreed.

Of those interviewed, electronics, clothes, guns and hunting gear were popular choices for their shopping lists.

Mirror Staff Writer Dom Cuzzolina is at 814-946-7428.

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