With the Thanksgiving leftovers packed away in the fridge, Acadiana shoppers took to the streets on Black Friday. For some shoppers, it was as much an opportunity to spend time with family and friends as capitalize on deals.
The official kickoff to the holiday shopping season saw hundreds of shoppers pursuing savings at big box chains and local retailers. Television crews captured the lines at Acadiana Mall and large retailers, like Walmart and Best Buy, where a line of shoppers streamed around the building before the doors opened Thursday evening.
The scene at Best Buy was more tame Friday morning, as New Iberia resident Monique Khamphilavong wheeled her cart through the television aisle in search of her next score. The 55-year-old is a Black Friday shopping veteran and has conquered the long lines and overnight shopping sprint, but said she prefers the relative calm of shopping after the main wave had cleared through.
Though she made several Black Friday purchases online, Khamphilavong said, she likes asking questions about the products in-person and capitalizing on in-store deals. It’s also a more personal experience, she said. Every year she runs into friends and acquaintances she doesn’t see often.
She and her sister also turn the shopping excursion into a bonding experience.
“We make a day of it. We go eat lunch. It’s a fun time and it’s more than just saving money; it’s time together,” she said.
Tamika Carmouche, 40, also appreciates the personal time. Carmouche was the ringleader of a 10-woman shopping team of family members from around town and the country; Carmouche’s sister-in-law, Arielle, was in town for the holidays from North Dakota and joined the extravaganza.
The women donned matching Santa hats and “Black Friday Squad” shirts specially made for the day, laughing and chatting their way through the aisles as they accepted compliments on their shirts.
Carmouche said the holidays can be hard after the recent passing of her grandparents and her father-in-law. It’s nice to focus on the lighter things, she said.
“All of us have our own hustle and bustle of doing our own jobs and we don’t have a whole lot of time where we can get together,” she said. “The holidays are the toughest, especially since we lost family members. This is finally a chance to do something fun without being down and out about those that we’ve lost.”
Carmouche said the women began planning their day Thursday, scouring coupons, shopping lists and advertisements for the best deals. The women each made a list of their top picks and met at Carmouche’s home at 3 a.m. Friday. They made multiple stops, with Carmouche acting as timekeeper: the women got an hour to two hours at each store before they regrouped and moved on, she said.
The 40-year-old, like Khamphilavong, is a Black Friday shopping veteran and enjoys the in-person experience. While online shopping can be efficient, hiding behind the screen strips you of the opportunity for authentic interactions with others, Carmouche said.
She said she also likes supporting the community through sales tax contributions and specifically selected shopping centers and stores in different areas of the parish to support a wider array of communities.
“It’s about seeing where your money is going,” Carmouche said.
Charlotte Cryer, owner of Caroline and Company on Arnould Boulevard, said Black Friday is a crucial sales day for the locally owned business. The holiday sales kickoff, followed by Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday, provides a crucial revenue bump that carries the store into a steady stream of business through Christmas.
Cryer said she works to attract customers with personalized service, a unique selection of gifts and apparel, customizable Christmas wish lists to make gift-giving easy, and complimentary gift wrapping, both for in-store purchases and online pick-up orders.
Caroline and Company opened at 7 a.m. Friday and Cryer said cars were already lining the parking lot when she arrived to open the store. By 10:30 a.m., they had already served hundreds of customers. The support is important because small businesses are the heart of the community, she said.
“It’s important for the community to remember how important it is to shop local, with locally owned businesses when they can. We’re the ones supporting the school auctions and donating to their causes. We need the community to support us,” she said.
Lanzi Meyers adhered to that shop local mentality this Black Friday. The 32-year-old and her son Jack, 3, stopped at Caroline and Company and a couple other small businesses in the hunt for gifts for her grandmother and godchildren.
“There are things you can find here that you just can’t find elsewhere, and I like to keep my money in Lafayette,” Meyers said.