ROCKINGHAM — Shoppers in search of deep discounts and bonus buys turned out in droves at area stores on Black Friday, with many driving in from South Carolina and neighboring counties.
Halena Brown of Hamlet carried an armload of shopping bags as she continued to look over items in the ladies handbag section of Belk at Richmond Plaza.
“I’ve been to Rue 21, Hibbett (Sports), Foot Locker, Penny’s and now Belk,” she said.
Brown and her son, Jackson, waited until past noon to venture out for their deal-hunting adventure.
“We’ve found a lot of good sales,” she said. “And crowded, yes. But in a good way. People are patient, taking their time and just looking and shopping. Actually, it’s my first time doing the Black Friday sales and there are some good buys. It’s good to see people out spending money here in Richmond County. I think it’s revived the business here.”
She added it was her son’s idea to try shopping on Black Friday. Asked what he was looking for, the 18-year-old said clothing and accessories were at the top of his list.
“Maybe a watch,” he said. “Yeah, and shoes.”
“Yeah, we’re looking for shoes, mainly,” Halena Brown said. “That’s his thing. So we went to Hibbett and we went to Foot Locker. We’re still looking.”
Halena Brown said the renovations to Richmond Plaza, combined with the addition of new stores, has drawn a lot more people to the shopping center.
“There’s more variety,” she said. “Especially the younger people, the things that they want, to keep them from having to leave town and spend money elsewhere when they can spend money here at home. And they’re the ones with the money. Cause parents, we give it to them. It really looks nice, and I’ve noticed that there are a lot more — I don’t know if it has anything to do with the shops, but I hope so — a lot more people from South Carolina.”
She said she’s seen numerous Palmetto State license plates on cars in the parking lots.
“Really, since the storm, it seems like people realize that we’re here,” she added. “And now that they’re coming this way, they’ve continued to come. Whereas they went toward Fayetteville — now, they’re coming this way. Even traffic out on the highways since the storm, to me, has picked up since Hurricane Matthew. And it’s easier to get around here, too, versus Fayetteville.”
On the other end of Richmond Plaza, Courtnie Patterson of Scotland County was heading into Pee Dee Outfitters. Asked why she traveled from the county next door to shop in Rockingham, she gestured to the surroundings.
“We don’t have a Pee Dee Outfitters or a Rue 21,” Patterson said. “You got some good new stores, and it helped a lot. I’ve been here before, but since they changed everything, it’s a huge upgrade.”
Patterson, who had just come from the Rockingham Walmart, said she’d visited the Walmart in Laurinburg earlier.
“Yeah, they had decent sales at Walmart (in Laurinburg), and this year wasn’t as bad as the past two or three years,” she said. “Because usually they do, like, 6 (a.m.), 8 (a.m.), 10 (a.m.) before they release certain stuff. They done it all at 6 p.m., so everybody got what they got and left. They only had one fight in Laurinburg, compared to the usual five, six. That was in the toy section.”
Patterson said she didn’t know what toy prompted the fight because she was on the other side of the store when it broke out.
Asked about the rivalry between Scotland and Richmond counties’ football teams, and whether the Richmond Raiders or the Fighting Scots were the rowdiest in Walmart on Black Friday, Patterson laughed.
“I’d say probably the Fighting Scots,” she said. “Just because they’ve got their own Walmart.”
She said she prefers Rockingham’s Walmart, because it is open 24 hours a day.
At one of the new stores, Rue 21, the pop music was turned up and the aisles were crowded, giving it the feeling of a mall shop. Tenisha Easterling of South Carolina and her toddler son, Vernon, were among the many shoppers inside. She said the Black Friday sales that began on Thanksgiving Day in some stores were more frantic than Friday’s.
“It wasn’t that bad today, really, as it was yesterday,” she said. “I was in Walmart. Where I come from in Bennettsville, we don’t have a lot. We have to travel to shop. I like it here. I was here a few days ago, too.”
Amy Turner and Priscilla Cummings of Rockingham said they were not fans of shopping on Thanksgiving Day.
“It takes away from Thanksgiving,” Turner said. “You know what I’m saying? They shouldn’t do it on Thanksgiving Day.”
“That’s when you should just sit around and eat and get lazy,” Cummings added.
“Yeah, that’s family day,” Turner agreed.
Cummings said so far, the pair had been to Walmart, J.C. Penny and Rue 21, and that their next stop was Pee Dee Outfitters.
“We’re just hitting up the really good sales,” Turner said. “And the $10 jeans, some boots.”
“$20 boots at Penny’s,” Cummings added.
“$100 boots for $20,” Turner corrected. “They’ve got a bunch of boots over there.”
The friends said the Black Friday sales at J.C. Penny were scheduled at specific times throughout the day, and that they planned to go back there at 5 p.m.
“This one cuts off at 3 (p.m.) and then they give you coupons, and you can go back out there at 5,” Turner said.
At Rockingham’s Walmart, Lisa Bennett of Ellerbe pushed an enormous television through a checkout line while leaning on a crutch.
“I have an artificial leg,” she said, explaining that her reliance on the crutch was not enough to keep her away from the Black Friday deals.
“We’re just getting started,” Bennett said. “I started late because I was trying to avoid a crowd. It doesn’t look so bad out there right now, but I saw the live broadcast during the morning, and it was awful. So I decided to wait ‘til lunchtime to start.”
Proud of her find, Bennett said that even the afternoon prices were excellent.
“I came in just to see what they had left, because they had a lot of televisions on sale,” she said. “But this seems to be the best bargain for me and the place I want to put it in. And I found some bakeware I thought I was paying $11 for that ended up being $6. I was really excited about that because I love to bake, and I really enjoy saving money.”
Asked whether she had any advice for fellow shoppers, Bennett nodded her head.
“Wait ‘til after the crowd dies down,” she said. “Service is a lot better, people give you more attention and you don’t have to worry about being knocked over. If it’s meant for you to get it, it will still be here whenever you get the store.”
Reach reporter Melonie McLaurin at 910-817-2673 and follow her on Twitter @meloniemclaurin.