By Amanda Kim Stairrett
Killeen Daily Herald
FORT HOOD – The Friday after Thanksgiving is the busiest shopping day of the year, and it is no different on post.
The Clear Creek Main Exchange parking lot was still packed Friday afternoon – drivers stalking departing shoppers for parking spaces. Inside, lines of carts extended from each checkout lane and bargain hunters milled through the store, sorting through racks of clothes and sampling perfumes and colognes.
The store opened at 5 a.m. Friday and people were lined up at 3:30 a.m. when managers came to the building, said Lawrence Simmons Jr., a sales and merchandise manager. The first 100 customers received a $20 gift card – 50 given out at each of the two entrances.
"It was crazy," Simmons said, describing the scene when the doors opened. "It was like a stampede."
An average of 3,000 shoppers a day walk through the main exchange's doors. By 1:40 Friday afternoon, with a little more than 10 hours left in the shopping day, 3,200 had already been in and out. The store extended its closing hours Friday and today to midnight.
While most stores offer special deals the Friday after Thanksgiving, sales events, including the gift card giveaway at the main exchange continue today and Sunday.
The on-post store extended its "Black Friday" through the weekend to be more competitive with off-post stores, Simmons said.
"We try to outdo each other," he said of the main exchange and other stores.
Kelley Sidnez and her mother, Myong Leftwich, were at the store that afternoon to browse the sales and picked up shoes and cookies. Sidnez's 5-year-old daughter was asleep in the cart as they waited in a long checkout lane.
Leftwich said she was coming back Sunday when the store was scheduled to have a 20 percent sale on Dooney and Bourke purses.
The mother-and-daughter shopping team said they don't usually hit up all the stores and scour for good deals. They had been at the main exchange for two to three hours and that was enough for them.
"After this, we're about wore out," Sidnez said.
The hottest items at the main exchange so far were fragrances, shoes, clothing and movies, Simmons said.
The Warrior Way Specialty Store across post, which is like a Best Buy or Circuit City, had popular sales on DVD players and computers.
The day after Thanksgiving is a busy shopping day because it is traditional to kick off the holiday shopping season, Simmons said. How well stores do on that day is an indicator of how well the holiday shopping season will go.
Simmons has spent the last two Christmases working at exchanges at Camp Anaconda in Balad, Iraq. The stores there don't have a chaotic after-Thanksgiving shopping day, he said; the stores are busy all the time. The stateside holiday shopping season will take a bit of getting used to, he said, while walking through the busy store Friday.
The returning 4th Infantry Division soldiers also have contributed to a surge in sales, Simmons said. Returning male soldiers usually go for the high-end electronics, such as computers and big-screen televisions, while female soldiers usually go for the clothes, he added.
The store will also see a spike in baby items nine months from now, Simmons said, laughing.
The biggest challenge during this frenzied shopping weekend is cleaning up at the end of each day, Simmons said. That includes cleaning and restocking the stores to make it look like new for the next round of holiday shoppers.
Contact Amanda Kim Stairrett at firstname.lastname@example.org