ST. PETERSBURG — It was the worst time on the worst day in the worst month for business, downtown shop owners said.
But there they were: dozens lined up at the crack of dawn, waiting to get their shop on.
Decked out in sleepwear for the 38th annual Sunrise Sale and Pajama Party, early risers were treated to coffee, mimosas, bargains and balloons as they strolled up and down Beach Drive NE early Thursday. The specials ran from 6:43 a.m. until noon.
Several store owners also donned pajamas throughout the event, sponsored by the Downtown Business Association.
"Who in the world would get up at 6:43 in the morning to go shopping?" said Bernie's & Son owner Bob Serata, who wore Grinch pajama bottoms. "You need to give them a reason. You need to give stuff away."
About 30 businesses participated, each offering their own deals to the early birds. Some lured shoppers in with coupons and coffee, others with lottery-style prizes and promises of discounts up to 80 percent off.
As shoppers milled about on the sidewalk, the Chick-fil-A cow — in pajamas — handed out free breakfast biscuits.
Serata, who has participated in the event for more than two decades, said the sale makes a notable difference in an otherwise slow season.
"Summers here are the worst: It's hot, the tourists are gone, there's mosquitoes everywhere," he said. "Who wants to go out in those conditions otherwise?"
For Robin Cunningham, co-owner of My Yogurt Cafe, this was her first time on the other side of the counter.
"When I was younger, I used to come down here with my mom and my aunts just for fun," she said. "Whether you're shopping or working, it's just fun."
For some customers, the draw was purely commercial.
"I'm comfortable, I'm ready and I'm in the mood to shop," exclaimed Donna Liszewski, 64, of St. Petersburg.
For others, the chance to parade around in their pajamas was too good to pass up.
"This morning the concierge in my building looked at me and just didn't know what to say," said 74-year-old Joan McCreary.
McCreary, wearing a floral pink, green and purple robe with shiny gold slippers, said encouraging adults to walk around in their pajamas is "a great idea."
A few steps away, Mia Sadler was showing off her bunny slippers and leopard-print robe. Sadler, a 50-something from St. Petersburg, said she collects bunny slippers and reveled in the opportunity to show off.
Last year, the sale was on a Saturday rather than mid-week, but store owners said the turnout wasn't what they had hoped.
Thursday seemed to work just fine for shoppers, who said there appeared to be more pajama-clad bargain hunters than in years past.
"I like the idea of rolling out of bed, and just going out as I am," said Lee Evans, 55. "It's like being a kid again."