JAMES CITY - A 6 p.m. opening paid off for stores at Premium Outlets on Thursday, as thousands of shoppers filled stores hours earlier than last year's 10 p.m. launch.
While the parking lot hadn't filled completely by 9 p.m., most spots were taken as police controlled traffic along Richmond and Olde Towne roads.
All but three stores in the center were open. The exceptions were Naturalizer shoe store, Burberry, a high-end women's accessories shore, and Brighton Collection jewelry. Naturalizer's sign listed store hours for the entire week except Thanksgiving Day. Similarly, Burberry's sign simply said the store was closed on Thanksgiving.
Three other stores had security limiting access: Coach, traditionally one of the most popular stores at Premium on Black Friday, The North Face, and True Religion jeans.
The outlet with the longest checkout line inside easily belonged to Nike. From the registers the line snaked through a queue, then made its way through the store to the entrance to the women's fitting rooms.
Despite the day's focus on food, vendors were also experiencing steady business. Uncle Dave's Kettle Corn had a regular stream of customers, some lured in through free samples. Even Sno-to-Go had customers as temperatures hovered in the 40s.
By 6 a.m. Friday morning the parking lots had thinned out considerably, though another wave of shoppers was expected to return.