No line. No mad dash into the store. No chaos.

At 6 a.m. on Black Friday, few cars dotted the parking lot of the newest Wal-Mart at 27th Street and Grainger Parkway in south Lincoln.

Inside, store employees with large brooms swept up tossed advertisements and other remnants of holiday shopping that began a day earlier this year.

Wal-Mart and many other retailers, including Target and Kohl's, opened with deals on Thanksgiving night. Wal-Mart staggered deals, with some starting at 6 p.m. Thursday, some at 8 p.m. and others not until 8 a.m. Friday.

Things picked up at Wal-Mart when electronics went on sale at 8 a.m. A few dozen people wrapped around the electronics section.

Sisters Morgan and Alexa Birkle rummaged through some picked-over $5 DVD bins. The sisters said keeping Thanksgiving and holiday shopping separate had kept them from venturing out earlier.

"It's usually a lot busier," Morgan said. "I'm surprised."

Although the Birkles had not started on Thursday, they still planned to finish their holiday shopping on Black Friday. After Wal-Mart, they were driving to the Omaha malls.

Plenty of people hit Lincoln's malls. By 8:30 a.m., parking lots were filling at SouthPointe Pavilions.

Only stores that had waited to open Friday morning had lines at dawn. Alyssa Hoeft, 16, waiting before Scheels, said the atmosphere wasn't the same as in years past.

Julie Lattimer, marketing director for SouthPointe Pavilions, said stores that opened Thursday night had crowds.

At Old Navy, which opened at 7 p.m. with half off everything, eight registers went "full tilt" until at least 11:30, she said.

"The stores that opened at midnight had great traffic (too)," she said.

Gateway Mall opened at 8 p.m., it's earliest Thanksgiving opening ever. There were long lines, but assistant general manager Dale Sparks said things seemed less chaotic.

"I do think the earlier opening time helped spread the traffic out and allowed a more manageable holiday opening," he said Friday morning.

Early Thanksgiving openings didn't stop many other people from starting early Friday or continuing on to other stores that had held off opening until later.

Lincoln resident Chad Pierce was one of nine people outside of PetSmart at 6:45 a.m. Friday. He was hoping to take advantage of coupons and reduced prices to score presents for Bosco, his beagle-blue heeler.

"He's spoiled," Pierce said. "But that's all right."

Pierce had started at Kohl's on Thursday night. He got everything he needed, but said he didn't like that shopping interfered with the holiday of giving thanks.

"Ruins the tradition," he said. "It should be about family and being together."

Some of Pierce's friends also had started shopping Thursday evening and planned to keep going through the night and into Friday morning.

The line at PetSmart grew to a few dozen people as the store's 7 a.m. opening approached.

And when the doors finally opened, everyone filed in neat and orderly.

Lattimer and Sparks both said crowds were bigger this year than last because of Friday's home Husker football game.

"People are mega-shopping until they catch the shuttle," Lattimer said, referring to the buses that arrive at 9 a.m. to take people from SouthPointe to downtown.

Lattimer expected things would cool off at SouthPointe when the game started at 11, and then pick back up later, with the size of the crowd and their shopping mood somewhat dependent on whether Nebraska defeats Iowa.

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Reach Emily Nitcher at 402-473-2657 or enitcher@journalstar.com. Reach Matt Olberding at 402-473-2647 or molberding@journalstar.com.



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