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Black Friday in Bureau County, beyond

PRINCETON — Bureau County shoppers were among the 141 million shoppers who hit the stores and retailers websites from Thanksgiving Day through Sunday. One year ago, that number was 139 million shoppers for the same time period.

Among the crowds of shoppers were Amy Johnson and Gina Nelson, both of Princeton.

The shopping duo set out late Thursday night and shopped until Friday morning.

“We slept a few hours, then we went back out once the sun was up on Black Friday,” Johnson said.

According to the National Retail Federation, nearly 45 million people hit the stores on Thanksgiving Day for some early Christmas shopping. That number sets a record shopping high for Thanksgiving Day.

One year ago, that Thanksgiving Day shopping number was at 35 million. Though Black Friday remains the largest shopping day of the year, with more than 92 million shoppers hitting the stores last Friday, the National Retail Federation group stated the heavy Thanksgiving Day shopping was no doubt responsible for the smaller than expected number of Black Friday shoppers.

Among the several local stores that took part in Black Friday sales were Gustafson’s Ace Hardware Store in Princeton.

Store Manager Allan Gustafson said “sharpest prices” were on tool selections.

While the store didn’t open their doors early this year, the business stayed steady with shoppers looking mostly for Christmas decorations.

Gustafson said the hardware store’s hot items were Christmas lights and wreaths.

“Sales were good,” he said. “Maybe a bit better than last year due to the selection of sale merchandise in our flyer.”

Johnson and Nelson had set out on their shopping adventure to find the “best deals” on items for the upcoming annual Bureau County United Way toy drive.

Nelson said their first stop was Princeton, and then they wound their way around the area making additional stops in Peru and Peoria, before making it back to Princeton.

“From what we saw, there was a little Black Friday frenzy where the electronics and video games deals were concerned,” Johnson said. “We encountered incredible kindness, however, when a woman overheard us saying we were shopping for our toy drive, she stepped back in line to offer us her verbal and monetary support for our efforts. How fantastic is that to be reminded of the kindness of our area residents? That felt like Christmas.”

From Nelson and Johnson’s perspective, the largest lines wrapped around at Walmart, Target and Best Buy.

“Hot items seemed to mainly be electronics, iPhones, iPads, tablets, video games, television,” said Nelson. “People were standing in lines for those, sometimes for a couple hours minimum. The rubber band bracelet kits are really in demand, as well.”

While the two found great deals everywhere they went, they came upon the best deals on items such as scooters, bracelet kits and remote control toy vehicles.

“We just had to be patient and willing to work with others and wait in line,” Johnson said. “We are still in great need of gifts for children ages 8 years and up. We will continue shopping over the next couple weeks to hopefully fulfill our area clients’ needs in time for timely distribution.”

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