Here’s what it’s like to go Black Friday shopping at the Memphis Pyramid

The NewsDesk
Read Time4 Minutes, 34 Seconds

CLOSEAutoplayShow ThumbnailsShow CaptionsLast SlideNext Slide Maybe it’s the tanks of fish. Mother Nature isn’t woven so tightly among many other giant department stores on one of the country’s most unnatural days of the year, when circadian rhythms are purposefully evaded after eating platefuls of food in front of the television in order to wake early, drive through the dark and stand in lines for good sales. But somehow, Black Friday at Bass Pro Shops at the Pyramid is close to serene. The doors opened at 5 in the morning, and by 5:05 shoppers were already walking back to their cars, purchases in hand, golden bulbs on the “M” bridge illuminating the still-dark sky.Inside, people were reading the store’s 54-page ad like it was a Sunday paper in the 1990 heyday. A man had time and space to slowly survey a boat anchored by the checkout. One mother was methodically reviewing her list and scratching items off without having to make any elbow room. No one screamed. No Christmas music played. Coffee was available for 90 cents. In the vicinity of the fudge shop, it smelled pleasantly of roasted nuts.The surprise comes from the juxtaposition of Black Friday headlines past. One website, blackfridaydeathcount.com, is dedicated to keeping track of the worst tales. Even in the best scenarios, when no stampedes or fights over parking spaces occur, Black Friday waits are long and patience is short. At a Bass Pro Shop in Metro Atlanta, family members say that the line typically swells to well over a hundred people by 3:30 in the morning. Outside the Memphis Pyramid, Mike Little sat in his truck until 4:45 a.m.Then he walked inside, strolled to the second floor and secured a ticket for a Savage rifle.“This just in! Now, my last Savage,” a woman assisting at the gun counter announced to the crowd about 45 minutes later, just before 6 a.m. “Come on, claim your prize.” The front-page deal was good enough for Little, 57, to drive over from Brighton. Plus, he only had to wake up about an hour earlier than usual to secure it. A three-step process — first a ticket, then a counter number, then the background check — made the area the most crowded of the store Friday morning, but most found space to stop and sit next to their buggies in the aisles.  It was a stop in a traditional Black Friday marathon of others for the Edmistons, who arrived at the Pyramid at 5 a.m. Richard, 39, and Kristen, 38, have kept up the Black Friday tradition for 22 years. The couple left the kids in pajamas with their grandparents after Thanksgiving dinner, and began shopping at 8 p.m. Thursday.They agreed that the Pyramid was definitely the calmest spot on the route so far, perhaps because of the space in the store, Kristen suggested. It was nothing like the chaos they’d experienced so far at a Kohl’s and at the Tanger Outlets in Southaven. In addition to the hunting section, the $10 clothing is the other “hot spot” at the otherwise relaxed Bass Pro, Kristen said. The Edmistons get hoodies and dog beds each year.Bass Pro Shops declined to share exact Black Friday customer counts in an email earlier this week, but said “we will expect thousands of shoppers to join us at the Pyramid and experience one of our busiest days of the year.”Nationally, about 36% of shoppers who plan to shop during Black Friday week will do so on actual Black Friday, according to a holiday outlook survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers. That’s on par for the last two years, but following a dip from 51% in 2016 to 35% in 2017. This is the first holiday season that online shopping will outpace in-store shopping, according to the analysis. Online and in-store preferences held steady at a 50/50 split over the last two years, but PwC says for the first time a majority of consumers, about 54%, will go the convenient online route this year in favor of heading to the stores. Shopping online, though, is not the same experience. One group of women at the Bass Pro Shops Friday morning agreed that shopping online is “no fun.” “I like to mingle with people,” said Karen Prentiss, 60. She was going on hour 14 of Black Friday shopping, having been out with her handful of friends since 4 p.m. Thursday.”Plus we get to eat about three or four times,” Prentiss added.The group parked themselves in a cove of reclining chairs at the Pyramid, nearby the elevator to the lookout area upstairs. The elevator didn’t open until later in the morning at 9 a.m. but was still covered in red and green lights, like the front of the Pyramid.The group of women all wore matching shirts, made specifically for this year’s trip. “Out of my way, It’s Black Friday,” the shirts said in curly font. The women estimate they’ve been Black Friday shopping together for the last decade. “We’ve accomplished a lot,” said Sherry Bennard, 48. She doesn’t see them stopping anytime soon. “We’ll be doing it till we can’t walk,” Bennard said, joking that they may even bring their walkers in one day. They’d be able to roll right on in the front of the Pyramid, under the store’s “Welcome to Paradise” sign. Laura Testino covers education and children’s issues for the Commercial Appeal. Reach her at laura.testino@commercialappeal.com or 901-512-3763. Find her on Twitter: @LDTestinoRead or Share this story: https://www.commercialappeal.com/story/news/2019/11/29/black-friday-2019-memphis-bass-pro-shops-at-the-pyramid/4318256002/

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