TWIN FALLS — Sun Valley siblings Joel Lira and Gracie Robles slept in their car Wednesday night so they were first in line when Best Buy opened at 5 p.m. on Thanksgiving.
They placed their camping chairs outside the Twin Falls store to hold their spot while they slept in the parking lot.
Then, they waited all day Thursday — at times, in the rain and wind — hoping to score pre-Black Friday deals.
They had their eye on a 50” television, for $179.99.
And Robles was looking for a new laptop computer. “I need one for school,” she said. Her current one is four years old and is “physically falling apart.”
While they were waiting in line, they ate waffles in the morning and tacos in the afternoon. About one-and-a-half hours before the store opened, Lira said they enjoyed the whole experience and it was exciting.
After their shopping trip, they planned to celebrate Thanksgiving. “After this, we’re going home and eating,” Lira said.
The siblings were among hundreds of “Gray Thursday” shoppers on Thanksgiving at big box Twin Falls stores.
Magic Valley Mall opened at midnight Friday, but some of its biggest stores — such as Macy’s, Sears and Shopko — opened Thursday evening. Other popular shopping locations in Twin Falls also opened on Thanksgiving, including Walmart and Target.
Nationwide, 69 percent of Americans, about 164 million people, will likely shop over Thanksgiving weekend, according to the National Retail Federation.
Of those, 20 percent planned to shop on Thanksgiving Day. But Black Friday is still expected to be the most popular shopping day over the holiday weekend.
Target opened its doors at 6 p.m. Thursday. A line stretched all the way along the front of the building and around the corner.
Bliss resident LaNece Goodro, her two children and boyfriend were first in line. They arrived at 1:30 p.m., which Goodro said was well worth it to snag a bench outside instead of standing.
She typically shops on Black Friday weekend every year. “We just think it’s fun,” she said.
Goodro didn’t have anything specific in mind she was shopping for, but was interested in looking at the movies. Her boyfriend was hoping to find PlayStation VR (virtual reality) items. Unlike some people nearby in line, they weren’t planning to get an iPhone.
Lee Andersen, general manager of the Twin Falls Target, said the two days leading up to Thanksgiving are some of the worst, but he loves Thanksgiving at the store.
“It’s my favorite day of the year because there’s so much excitement around it,” he said.
He estimated between 800 and 1,200 people would come into the store during the initial Thursday night rush.
Target has a few changes this year to its Thanksgiving and Black Friday shopping. One of the biggest: The store closed at midnight Friday and reopened at 6 a.m. For the past 12 to 15 years, Andersen said, it was open all night.
The change is better for families, he said.
Another notable change: Shoppers could order the hot deals online this year instead of coming into the store.
During the day Thursday, Target employees were filling online orders — pulling items from shelves that people ordered online for pick up later.
This holiday weekend, Target is also focusing more on “soft goods” such as clothing for its sales, Andersen said.
At Best Buy, Twin Falls County sheriff’s deputies walked around the area and guarded the store’s front doors.
Tim Mealer, general manager of the Twin Falls Best Buy, expected about 200 people to line up before the store opened.
Mealer expected the unusually warm weather would lead to a longer line, but it started raining in the late afternoon.
Best Buy employees arrived at 1 p.m. to set aside any online orders that came in. The store was slated to stay open until 1 a.m. Friday.
Two hours before the store opened, employees distributed a limited number of tickets for the 50” televisions — arguably, the most sought-after deal of the night at Best Buy.
Other popular items: gaming systems, tablets and laptops, Mealer said.
Toward the end of the line outside Best Buy, Eddie Walsh of Meridian was flipping through a copy of the Best Buy advertisement with significant other Tracie McCabe of Twin Falls.
McCabe said they heard tickets were already distributed for the 50” televisions — the item they were interested in. They didn’t get one.
“Now, we’re debating whether we need to run to Walmart,” she said. “They have something comparable.”
It was only the second time McCabe had ever shopped on Black Friday weekend. The couple had already eaten their Thanksgiving meal before heading out shopping.
“We’re just looking for the best deals,” Walsh said. He was looking for a specific game for his son for Nintendo Switch.
For Lira, who camped out overnight at Best Buy, he’d consider shopping on Thanksgiving next year — if the deals are good enough.
“If it’s worth it,” he said, “we’ll do it again.”