Some of the shoppers who hit Santa Maria’s brick-and-mortar stores this year looking for Black Friday deals said the discounts were not as deep as in previous years, and a few found the items they wanted were sold out.

Most said it didn’t bother them that major retailers stayed closed on Thanksgiving Day, which had become an extension of Black Friday for many large national retailers before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

Reflecting a trend reported nationally, early morning shoppers seemed calm compared to years before when many were frantic — a few resorting to near violence — to get their hands on items that were in limited stock.

By late morning, crowds seemed only a little heavier than normal at big retailers and shopping centers, although parking near some was at a premium.

Outside Target, Nettie Gutierrez and Alesia Gutierrez of Nipomo and Jacob Limón were adding their latest purchases to several others stacked in the back of their Jeep.

Nettie Gutierrez said she left home at 4:30 a.m. to be at Walmart when it opened and had already hit Kohl’s and Home Depot as well.

She echoed other shoppers’ observations about the depth of this year’s sales.

“Things are not discounted as much,” she said. “But I wasn’t out for any big items. The things I wanted were like 50% off.”

Another trend that’s been reported nationwide is that many shoppers this year are treating themselves to items they want, sort of as a self-reward for living with pandemic restrictions for more than a year.

But Gutierrez said that’s nothing new for her.

“I do that every year,” she said. “Whenever I find something on sale.”

Outside Lowe’s, James Richards carried a large box containing a six-tool DeWalt combo kit and laughed when asked who it was for.

“It’s for me,” Richards said with a big grin. “I deserve it, and no one else is going to spend this kind of money on a gift for me.

“I could have ordered it online and had it delivered, but I like to look at things, hold them in my hands before I buy,” he added. “And I want it now. … Merry Christmas to me!”

Many people seemed to be taking advantage of curbside pickup, ordering online then having their purchases delivered to a kiosk in the parking lot, as at Target, or to numbered reserved parking spaces at stores like Best Buy, which also erected metal barricades to control the flow of shoppers into and out of the store during the expected early morning rush.

Over in the Best Buy parking lot, B.W. “Buck” Thomas had opened the hatch on his rental SUV and was reclining in full sunlight on a stack of soft-sided luggage next to a pile of shopping bags from various chain and local retailers.

Thomas said he’s from Vermont and in town with his wife to spend the Thanksgiving holiday with her family.

“She’s inside looking for cellphone accessories for our kids,” he said. “I’m out here enjoying the California weather and getting some sun. It’s cold as hell and snowing back home. This [weather] is like summer back there. Can’t believe this is late November. … It’s not much like Christmas, that’s for sure. But I like it.”

Half a dozen cars away, Raul Hernandez of Santa Maria had rounded the Best Buy barriers and was approaching his pickup truck empty-handed.

“No, I did not find what I wanted,” Hernandez said, adding, “It was not sold out; it just was not what I thought it was.”

He said he planned to look elsewhere, “But I probably won’t find it.”

Jimmy Schmidt, who said he lives “out in the country” and “hates shopping on Black Friday,” was wheeling a big-screen TV out of Walmart in a shopping cart shortly before noon.

He said he only came out Friday because he wanted a big-screen and wanted it on sale.

“It actually wasn’t the one I wanted,” Schmidt said. “That one was sold out, or so they said. This one is actually better, a little bigger, but it cost more. … But I promised my girlfriend I’d get us one for Christmas, and it’s still a good deal. … Still haven’t figured out how I’m gonna hide it.”

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