'Gray Thursday' makes for smoother Black Friday shopping in Minnesota

Those hunting for bargains at Minnesota retailers Friday morning found that Black Friday's steady slide back into Thanksgiving Day made for smoother shopping.

By sunrise Friday, it was clear that the post-Thanksgiving shopping at St. Paul big box stores was less frenzied than in years past. At Target, the half-empty parking lots and clear checkout lanes were a relief to shoppers hoping to avoid big crowds.

Karissa Meyers, 30, braved bigger crowds Thursday night to score a new iPad — a Christmas present for herself. Come Friday morning, she and family members skipped their usual 4 a.m. start and headed to Target around 8 a.m.

Meyers, a marketing manager, felt like she had stumbled on a secret, as buying toys for her nieces was a piece of cake.

"The stores are empty. There are no lines and you still have a lot of the deals left," she said.

Lacey Nielsen, 31, went to Target Friday morning planning to grab a gift card and perhaps a few presents for relatives. But the healthy stack of 39-inch flat-screen TVs was too much to pass up.

She grabbed three: One for mom, one for her sister and one for herself.

"It's kind of funny because I don't even watch TV, and here I am buying three TVs," Nielsen said.

Shopping at a Wal-Mart across the street, Ken Blodgett said he knew why the crowds were tamer than usual: the Internet.

More Americans may be doing their holiday shopping online, but Blodgett, 59, proudly insisted he's not one of them. No shopping enthusiast in general, Blodgett purposely waited until 7:30 a.m. to hit the stores in search of a heavy-duty vacuum and a copy of "Captain America" on DVD.

"I don't like the crushing through the door, the mob," he said.