ROCKINGHAM — They were hungry, tired and cold, but shoppers were out in full force Thanksgiving Day evening as they waited in lines for up to two and one-half hours in search of the best details at area retailers.
Hundreds formed a line at Belk department store on Highway Business 74 stretched from the store’s main entrance past Save-A-Lot and beyond JC Penney. Belk was among the stores that promoted an 8 p.m. opening but shoppers began showing up at 5:30 p.m.
At Belk, there didn’t seem to be a single hot-ticket item to lure shoppers. Instead, it was the combination of low prices on a variety of items. And people were in a rush to get in. Less than 15 minutes before the scheduled opening time, the back half of the line moved forward to form a second line at the store’s west entrance.
That didn’t make those who’d been in line much longer — even though their spots were secured with red cards handed out by Belk staff — happy. Things might have taken a turn for the worse if not for the presence of a Rockingham Police Department officer.
“Back up from the door,” the barrel-chested officer shouted.
To the clapping and cheers of those who’d been in line the longest, the crowd obeyed.
The situation didn’t seem to concern the Andre family one bit.
Dayanna Andre, 14, and her family was first in line at Belk. To take the chill out of the air, they had walked the half-mile from home.
Dayanna was adamant there was only one reason she was willing to endure such conditions.
“One Direction perfume,” she exclaimed of the fragrance with the name of the famous-right-now pop boy band. “They’re the biggest band ever. Some people believe they’re bigger than Jesus.”
Her mother, Crystal Andre, had a slightly different perspective and perharps a more reasonable analogy.
“It’s like PlayStation 4 for girls,” Andre said.
Next in line was Paula Carter with her daughter. They had waited in line just as long but had nothing specific in mind.
“Whatever she wants,” Carter said of her daughter’s desires.
Boots, and then headphones, normally $30 but available Thursday night for $7.99, were items on the list.
Betty Quick had been in line with her sister for nearly two hours at Belk. The doors opened at 7:53 p.m. to begin allowing those with red tickets inside, but Quick, with ticket No. 42, waited at the door as those with higher numbers went inside.
“I’m waiting for my sister,” Quick said. “My sister lost hers.”
After several minutes, Quick’s sister returned and they were permitted entry together.
Hamlet resident Diane Hodges was leaving Walmart at about 8:30 p.m. with a single cart stuffed with items. The biggest item she came for in 2012 had escaped her; this year, all she had to do was drive around to the side of the building.
“They’re going to load it, thank goodness,” Hodges said of her family’s new 50-inch television.
Hodges said she saved nearly $400 on the unit by shopping Thursday night.
Hodges said she and her daughter and granddaughter were “determined this year” to get the television.
“If it wasn’t for them, I would have nothing but the T.V.,” she said. “You have to sit there. They wouldn’t let you leave.”
Hodges described her two and one-half hour wait, and the experience, as “a mess.”
“I am so tired,” Hodges said as she leaned against her grocery cart for support. “It’s a mess, but it was worth it.”
Alejandro Alston, of Rockingham, was another satisfied customer leaving Walmart before 9 p.m. He had a single item, a child’s hybrid bicycle. And he knew exactly who the bike would be for — his daughter.
“The best lady in the world,” Alston describer her.
He, too, was in line for quite a while but said the 75 percent off price tag was too good to resist.
Like Hodges, he agreed the experience might be overwhelming.
“You need human traffic lights in there,” Alston said.
The 8 p.m. opening at JC Penney, two doors down from Belk, was much slower. However, by 9 p.m. the place was buzzing. People endured more long lines at the cash register and staff there set up mobile check-out registers to expedite the process.
Popular items there, judging from a glance in shoppers’ arms, included clothing, jewelry and radio control vehicles.