Black Friday buyers swarm dozens of stores into the wee hours of the morning each year, but the hardest of the hard-core are usually found at Best Buy.
Steep discounts on TVs, laptops and other electronics seem the only shopping deals capable of causing someone to camp on a cold sidewalk for two nights in a row in Lexington.
However, noticeably fewer people camped out at Lexington's Best Buy stores than last year. At 4:30 p.m. Thursday, the number waiting at each store was about half that of last year. Fewer still had stayed overnight, and only one group — the first folks in line at the Hamburg store — had staked out a spot Tuesday.
The lines began growing more rapidly about 7 p.m. Thursday, but the delay led to speculation about what caused the apparent lack of enthusiasm.
"A lot of people are saying the deals aren't as good as last year," said Stephanie Schults, 26.
Schults was about sixth in line at the Hamburg store and among the shoppers planning to snag a 40-inch Toshiba TV for $179.99. She was among the five groups who camped in tents overnight; the rest of the 40 or so people in line Thursday afternoon had only been there a couple hours.
Others suggested the economic slump might have something to do with Best Buy's early lackluster crowds.
"The economy is just not back where it needs to be," said Auburney Clark, 21. "People are still being cautious."
Some suggested more people were shopping online this year, or that consumers were not participating in Black Friday so they could spend more time with their families on Thanksgiving.
But as the evening wore on, another contributing factor emerged. Customers were buying electronics elsewhere.
"A lot of people on Facebook said they were going to Wal-Mart," said Rusty Page, 29, one of the Best Buy faithful from Lexington.
By 7:30 p.m., the parking lot of the Wal-Mart on Nicholasville Road was nearly filled. The scene was similar at Kmart down the road and Target in Hamburg.
Customers at the Nicholasville Road Wal-Mart said they were lured by the retail giant's in-stock guarantees, price-matching and earlier hours. (Wal-Mart's sale started at 8 p.m., whereas Best Buy opened at midnight.)
Wal-Mart also drew folks who wanted to buy more than electronics. Arthur and Blair Bush of Lexington were among those shopping for a TV at Wal-Mart, planning to buy it for older relatives.
"But, we have girls, too, so we're looking at Barbies and stuff," Blair Bush said. "It's one-stop shopping, I guess."
Still, many who chose to wait for hours at Best Buy said they weren't likely to switch stores anytime soon. Some said they preferred Best Buy because it wasn't as hectic.
"I watched a girl get hit in the head with a DVD player last year at Wal-Mart," said Clint Wilson, 19, of Cynthiana.
Though they were competing for deals, those in line at Best Buy seemed to get along. They shared power from generators and shared stories and jokes.
Many of those in the front of the line outside Best Buy on Nicholasville Road remembered each other from years prior.
"We've had a little bit of a reunion, I guess," said Tom Brennan, first in line for two years running.
Though the scene at many stores became more hectic as Thanksgiving evening wore on, by 9 p.m. there had been no serious instances in Lexington of fights or other disruptions, said Lexington police Lt. Chad Bacon.
Clark, of Lexington, a Black Friday line first-timer, said she was surprised by that.
"With all the horror stories, I thought there would me more pushing and shoving," she said.
Josh Kegley: (859) 231-3197. Twitter: @HLpublicsafety.