KAHULUI - Maui shoppers snatching up bargains and taking advantage of Black Friday sales expressed mixed feelings Friday about retailers opening their doors on Thanksgiving and offering sales hours earlier than they have in the past.
"I think they should stick to the Friday opening. Five o'clock is fine," said Pukalani resident Lisa Kalawaia, as she waited in line for The Home Depot's doors to open at 5 a.m. Friday along with more than 100 other customers.
Kalawaia said she had to shoo people out of her home Thursday, as she and her shopping partners needed to head down to Kahului for Walmart's sales than began at 8 p.m.
Queen Ka‘ahumanu Center is crammed with shoppers Friday morning.
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo
"I should do it at 9 (in the morning) for breakfast," Kalawaia joked of her Thanksgiving celebration.
Jennelyn Batistel, 20, of Kahului said she liked the early openings but not for the expected reasons. On Friday, she and her friends could leisurely shop at Queen Ka'ahumanu Center around 8 a.m. without bucking the crowds that likely massed for store openings on Thanksgiving evening and at midnight.
"It's better that way," Batistel said. "Better than being in the crowd (that is) going for something big."
Her friends, Marielle Ramos and Maria Eliza Cu, liked the earlier store openings for the same reasons. All three Kahului residents looked tired as they sat on a bench at the Kahului mall Friday morning. They began their shopping at Walmart at 4 a.m., then went to Sears, Macy's and Toys R Us Express.
This year, stores across the nation and on Maui opened earlier than in years past and ditched the normal Black Friday sales offered on the Friday after Thanksgiving and instead began their deep discounts early Thanksgiving evening.
Walmart staggered its Thursday sales, advertising one event that began at 8 p.m. and a second at 10 p.m.
People reported waiting at least a couple of hours to get into Walmart when it started its 8 p.m. sales. Others said the line to get into the big-box retailer spilled out and snaked around in its parking lot and reached the nearby Panda Express at 9 p.m. Thursday.
Sears also opened early at 8 p.m. Around 8:20 p.m. Thursday, there was still a large crowd of people waiting to get into Sears' doors.
Merlita Tiburcio and husband Jonathan said they were OK with the early store openings and said they waited for two hours in line at Walmart to snatch up $5 Barbie dolls, which were on special at 8 p.m. Thursday.
"Yeah, it's worth it," said Merlita Tiburcio, about the wait.
In fact, the two were back at Walmart again Friday morning, picking up more items, such as a camera for $449, down from $649, and a computer printer.
The Kahului couple said they went back to Walmart because they had just gone across the street to The Home Depot to pick up poinsettia plants for 99 cents each. The couple bought 30 plants that they had planned to take to Merlita Tiburcio's workplace, Hale Makua.
Even the last merchants at Queen Ka'ahumanu Center to open Friday - at 6 a.m. - were pleased with sales in the first two hours.
"We were packed," said Details Boutique owner Marla Mings of her store when it opened its doors Friday morning.
Unlike last year, Mings had a "supersale" and had everything in her store at 20 percent off for two hours.
As she looked at her totals, she said the store was already doing better than last Black Friday, with sales apparently up by about 20 percent.
Store sales have been up this year, Mings added. She said no one really talks about not being able to afford to buy things or the high cost of necessities.
"Everyone had a tough couple of years," she said of wading through the recession.
Mings added a line of plus-size clothes this year that has been selling well. Probably the hottest gifts in her store this season were the leather wrap watches and bracelets she has from London, she said.
At one of Ka'ahumanu's new stores, Pitter Patter, one of its owners, Ellyse Onishi, said foot traffic was steady for at least the first two hours of opening.
Onishi estimated that about 200 customers had visited the store that sells trendy shoes, Japanese character items, and other gifts and accessories.
Although sales were brisk so far, Onishi said: "We want more. Who doesn't want more?"
She said her top sellers so far were the Metal Mulisha backpacks and kids T-shirts. She also was running specials on girls and womens shoes. She said many of the specials will last all weekend.
Onishi's business partner and co-owner, Eryn Chun, also was in the store helping out along with another family member. The two women have another store at Windward Mall on Oahu.
Although Kalawaia didn't like the idea of having to chase family and friends away from their Thanksgiving gathering Thursday night, she was successful in getting her deal at 8 p.m. from Walmart - a $129 toy white BMW convertible car for her 4-year-old daughter to ride in. It was $76 off of its regular price.
As she waited at The Home Depot before dawn, Kalawaia said that she hoped to get a 7 1/2-foot-tall prelit artificial Christmas tree for $59. She said The Home Depot's staff passed out coffee and pastries as they stood in the dark for the store to open.
"They are awesome," she said before dashing into the store.
* Melissa Tanji can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.