A Black Friday unlike any others still draws shoppers, at a safe distance, of course

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The more things change, the more they stay the same. 

That’s the old adage, anyway. While COVID-19 turned Black Friday traditions on their head this year, for Luke Simons and Kaelan Ramirez, Black Friday 2020 looked a lot like Black Friday of years past. 

They lined up at Game Stop at Front Range Village at 7 p.m. Thanksgiving night, 12 hours before the store’s opening at 7 a.m. And they weren’t even at the front of the line.

Some had lined up two days before hoping to get their hands on one of two hard-to-find PlayStations or eight XBoxes in stock. The small store was letting shoppers in one or two at a time, while the queue lengthened by the minute.

“Most people will be going home with nothing,” Ramirez said. 

Ramirez and Simons were close enough to the front of the line that they were confident they would walk out with an XBox. Simons wanted a PlayStation “but I’ll be walking away with an XBox,” he said. 

Traci Episcopo of Timnath was about 50 people back in the Game Stop line at 7:15 but hadn’t given up hope on snagging an XBox for her 19-year-old son. 

Knowing her chances were slim, she was “trying anyway.” If she missed out, she said her son will have to wait. “He’s in no rush. He knows there’s a slim chance.”

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Across the parking lot at Super Target, most people waited in their cars until a few minutes before 7 when the store opened. 

For some, shopping on Black Friday was a ritual. For others, it was just something to do. 

Clovis Kell and Marie Richards of Severance were at the head of the Target line after having already been at Best Buy, where they bought headphones. 

At Target, they were looking for knickknacks and Christmas gifts. It was Richards’ first year tackling the marathon that can be Black Friday.

Clovis Kell, left, and Marie Richards wait in line outside Target as they shop for Christmas gifts in Fort Collins, Colo. on Black Friday, Nov. 27, 2020.

COVID-19 concerns were not going to keep him from his Black Friday rounds, but they did require some adjustments.

Kell didn’t start his Black Friday shopping as early as he usually does, partially because many stores adjusted their hours. He’s usually among the first in line at Best Buy but this year got there an hour before it opened “expecting a line … but no one was out of their cars yet. It was nice not having to get up so early,” he said. 

Best Buy, which typically sees lines stretched around the building, had no lines this year, he said. 

 “We didn’t ever get close to anyone,” Richards said.

Several Target employees monitored the crowd outside the store, but when doors opened, a manager said, “OK, looks like it will be a normal Friday.” 

Dennis Luttrell was in the Target line before the doors opened. He was looking for a coveted XBox for his grandkids. His daughter waited over at Game Stop in an effort to “divide and conquer.” 

They were the only two stores Luttrell planned to visit. “It will either be there and I’ll make them happy, or not get it and make them sad.” 

When an employee told the crowd they didn’t have any, Luttrell left the line. 

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Julie Kerr and her 15-year-old son, Alex, had already hit Macy’s and were on to Target looking for a deal on a cordless Shark vacuum. There were no crowds “but amazing deals” at Macy’s, she said. 

Customers line up socially distanced outside Target in Fort Collins, Colo. on Black Friday, Nov. 27, 2020.

It was Alex’s first Black Friday experience. Kerr usually leaves the kids at home, she said. 

Like others, she wasn’t worried about COVID-19. Everyone in line at Target wore their masks.  Inside, she said she’d be careful what she touched. She had her hand sanitizer and said there would be no touching the stock while perusing merchandise.

Over at the Timnath Walmart, nurse Christine Thomas of Severance had just finished her overnight shift at Banner Fort Collins Medical Center. 

Her cart was loaded with T-Fal pots and pans, Anchor Hocking bakeware and a trash can. She checked online to see how busy the store would be before heading east a mile or so from work to Walmart.

“I usually wait until Black Friday to stock up on things for my house,” she said. Today, mission accomplished. 

Across the street at Costco, older shoppers grew impatient. 

A line stretches outside the doors at Costco in Fort Collins, Colo. on Black Friday, Nov. 27, 2020.

The store was supposed to open at 8 for “senior hours.” Closing in on 8:30, the doors still weren’t open and the general public was going to be allowed in at 9. Tina Gray just wanted a Christmas tree. 

“Under normal circumstances, there’s no way I would be out on Black Friday,” Gray said. 

A store employee said a truck full of merchandise arrived late and workers were trying to get the floor stocked. The doors probably wouldn’t open much before 9, she said. 

Lindsay Reed and her mom, Nancy Boudreau, waited in line to get a deal on an iPhone mini. 

Reed, visiting from Pennsylvania, said she was along “as a bodyguard” for her mom, making sure nobody got too close. 

“COVID issues are still on my mind,” so she didn’t intend to spend much time browsing “unless we see amazing deals,” Boudreau said. “We’ll get the phone and maybe some wine.” 

Yes, this Black Friday, many things changed. But some things remained the same. 

Pat Ferrier is a senior reporter covering business, health care and growth issues in Northern Colorado. Contact her at patferrier@coloradoan.com. Please support her work and that of other Coloradoan journalists by purchasing a subscription today.