Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret Morning News
Liesl Houston, Mapleton, takes a break from yule shopping at Provo Towne Center.

LAYTON — Twenty-six. Five. One hundred sixty.

Those were the key numbers for early-bird shoppers at ShopKo on Black Friday. Braving 26-degree temperatures, their shopper tsunami poured inside a few seconds before 5 a.m. And Leslie Green of Ogden was the first to finish, two minutes and forty seconds after the doors opened.

"My sister told me she wanted it, so I got it," an out-of-breath Green said of the Magnetix toy in her bag as her sister and sister-in-law completed their purchases. "Quick in and out, and we got exactly what we wanted. It was great."

Before the mad scramble and jockeying for position in a way that would make Jerry Sloan proud, most door-buster shoppers were calm and quiet — or frozen stiff — waiting in line outside under a spotlighting full moon.

"I've got every blanket out of my house," said Adam Stevens of Layton, snug in a tent he had pitched at 11:30 p.m. Thursday in order to stay comfortable as first in line. Tagging along was sister Morgan, "just for the adventure," he said.

His target was a $70 recliner and a toy for his daughter. "Maybe next year I'll bring a barbecue.... or a bigger tent," he said.

A year ago, he quickly got into a hardware store for its early sale, but checking out took two hours.

"I couldn't get anyone else to come today because it was so cold. But it just seems I'll beat the hassle. I'll just walk in and be done," he added.

Stacy and Julie Little of Roy wanted to get several items, but the focus was on a $20 MP3 video player for Julie.

"This is a team effort here," Stacy Little said. "Hopefully, you'll get a chance to get what you've come for. This is quite a good sale."

"Our husbands think we're nuts," revealed Miranda Nielsen of West Point, waiting in line with sisters Jennie Baker of Rigby, Idaho, and Melissa Garrett of Salt Lake City and mom Susan Garrett of Payson, Ariz. They also wanted the popular MP3 player.

"Last year, I got to Staples at 9 a.m. and what we were looking for was already gone," Nielsen said.

"A stupid MP3 player" is what Mykelle Glass of Sunset said she was waiting for. She, husband Kevin Glass and Paul Wilson of Clinton were hoping to get a total of 22 of them. "Right now, it feels stupid because it's so freaking cold."

"But," Kevin Glass chimed in, "when the boys see it on Christmas, it will be great."

Several in line already had shopped elsewhere that morning or planned to hit another store afterward. The bargain-hunters were among about 37 percent of U.S. shoppers who were expecting to frequent shops on Black Friday, according to a recent Martiz Poll.

And Utah's shopping shock troops weren't alone as retailers nationwide slashed prices and pulled out all the stops after analysts forecast the slowest holiday shopping season in five years.

Holiday discounting "started earlier; it started more aggressively," said Howard Davidowitz, chairman of Davidowitz & Associates Inc., a New York-based retail consulting firm. "It's a reflection of a very weak consumer and horrendous retail sales."

Waiting in the chill of Weber County gave a few folks plenty of time to rationalize their situation.

"It is crazy," Julie Little acknowledged. "But it's once a year."

"It is a little crazy," her husband added, "but I don't mind. It gets the day started anyway. But I don't know if I would go as far as putting a tent up."

For Susan Garrett, Friday morning was a chance to have fun with her daughters. "This is when you get to be silly and crazy," she said. "This is when you laugh and have fun because you're being crazy and stupid."

By comparison, the pace of shopping at Utah County's University Mall in Orem appeared more business as usual than frenetic.

At 9 a.m., the mall's parking lot was moderately full with people hoping to get deals on everything from clothes to snowboards.

"I came for the discounts ... I've been disappointed (with the sales)," said Kat Phillpotts of Orem. She said she arrived at the mall at about 7 a.m. but expected more people.

Other shoppers agreed. "We didn't have to go through any mayhem," said Becca Francis, who started her day off with her husband, Bill, at 4:45 a.m. Walmart was their first stop, followed by the mall. Their 2-year-old son, Trevor, wanted to see Santa dropped off at the mall by KSL's Chopper 5 shortly after 10 a.m., said Bill Francis.

Back up north, Wilson was lamenting that people sleeping were missing out on great deals.

"All they will get is what's left over. They'll come back later and pay regular prices. Yeah, people don't want to stand in line and don't want to get cold, but when you're on a tight budget for Christmas and you've got a lot of people to provide for, this is the way to do it. You save money and if everybody is smart about, there's no problems," Wilson said.

"It's fun. It's an experience for everybody. It's like sky diving when everybody starts rushing for something," Wilson said. "This only happens once in a while, so take it, embrace it and have fun with it."


Deseret Morning News staff writer Catherine Smith and Bloomberg News contributed to this story