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Black Friday still busy for Fargo stores, even with shift to online shopping

Scheels bustles with activity as shoppers look for bargains on Friday, Nov. 24, 2017. David Samson / The Forum1 / 3
Vehicles fill the West Acres Shopping Center on Friday, Nov. 24, 2017. David Samson / The Forum2 / 3
Customers leave the Fargo Target store after shopping on Friday, Nov. 24, 2017. David Samson / The Forum3 / 3

FARGO—The most popular shopping destination this holiday season just might be online, and not a physical store, according to a first-of-its-kind survey finding that points to America's changing retail habits.

That didn't stop big crowds from forming at some of Fargo's stores on Black Friday, including people like Lisa Munter at Scheels, 1551 45th St. S. The Hillsboro, N.D., resident said she's been a loyal shopper the day after Thanksgiving for more than a decade, bringing her whole family to look for deals.

Price is part of it, but not everything. She said she tried to shop at Best Buy, 1615 38th St. S., on Thanksgiving night but thought it was "way too busy." She decided to stroll the halls at the nearby West Acres Shopping Center instead and pay full price some other time at Best Buy.

The National Retail Federation's annual holiday spending forecast found that American consumers planned to spend an average of $967.13 during the 2017 holiday season, up 3.4 percent from last year. About 69 percent of Americans, or 164 million people, planned to shop or considered shopping during the Thanksgiving weekend.

For the first time, the survey said online is expected to be this year's most popular shopping destination, cited by 59 percent of consumers, followed by department stores (57 percent), discount stores (54 percent), grocery stores or supermarkets (46 percent) and clothing or accessory stores (35 percent).

Why not online?

Casselton, N.D., resident Josh Haugsdahl said he usually shops on Black Friday. He started his excursion Friday, Nov. 24, at Scheels, and planned to also go to Home Depot and Costco.

For Haugsdahl, Black Friday is part of the holiday season.

"I guess I'm just used to it," he said.

Sandy Longnecker and her husband, Merle Longnecker, normally aren't in stores on the shopping holiday. The couple from New Rockford, N.D., came to Fargo to visit their daughter for Thanksgiving, and she said they wanted to check out Scheels while they were here.

Normally, they'd just Christmas shop as they have time rather than load up on a day of sales like Black Friday.

"It's kind of a madhouse in there," Merle Longnecker said.

Still, the couple was impressed by how efficiently Scheels was able to handle big lines of shoppers.

Event Leader Caryn Olson said it's customer service that makes Scheels a popular Black Friday destination.

"We're moving the lines really, really quickly, and I think people that shop at Scheels know that we're going to take care of them," she said.

Munter said she has shopped online, but she prefers to buy in stores. She drove from Hillsboro on Thanksgiving night to visit a few stores, then returned home for the night before coming back to Fargo on Friday morning.

She guessed she would visit about 30 stores in two days by the time she quit shopping on Friday night. She said she likes to do her shopping in brick-and-mortar stores because she likes to see what she's getting, especially with clothing.

"You want to see the print to make sure it's exactly what you're looking for," she said.

Cristina Jacobson also prefers to do her shopping in-person. The Winnipeg resident said her family drove to Fargo on Thanksgiving for an ambitious schedule of bargain hunting. They stayed out until about 4 a.m. Friday looking for deals and then woke up at 9 a.m. to shop some more at Target, 4202 13th Ave. S, and at other businesses.

Her family used to do a shopping trip each year like this, but she said they haven't in about five years because of an unfavorable monetary exchange rate. Now that the rate is more in their favor, they decided to return.

Jacobson said her kids are difficult to shop for because they're extra tall, so they prefer to try on clothes before they buy. That's something they couldn't do if they shopped online, she said.

They'll stay in a hotel through Sunday, but she said her husband—the list-oriented, bargain-hunting adult in the family—made it clear they're not here for a restful vacation.

"It's a shopping trip," she said with a chuckle.

Ryan Johnson

Ryan Johnson has been a Forum reporter since 2012 and previously wrote for the Grand Forks Herald.

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