It was clear that most of the people who turned up were well prepared.
They were armed with notebooks containing their research. They wore comfortable shoes and clothes. Some even brought a support person with them rather than going it alone.
It was the opening day of one of the major events of the year - the Toy Spectacular - the pre-Christmas mega sale of a national store chain.
I can hear you sniggering, but it's serious stuff . . . just ask any parent. After all where else can you find the things that Christmas dreams are made of at great price reductions under one roof with no deposit layby and until Christmas Eve to pay it off?
I am a relative newcomer to this ritual. I had always been a fulltime working mum until last year's sale time when I fronted up but quickly realised I had not done the necessary preparation. But not this year. Last year was my reconnaissance for this year. There would be no slip-ups in 2009 for me.
After studying the 132-page brochure and writing a list of the desired items in a notebook, I formed my on-the-shop floors strategy: get in early, get the specified items ASAP and get on the layby line pronto.
For the unitiated this may sound like overkill - but anyone who has seen a queue for the layby counter so long that it requires specially-appointed staff to act like traffic cops knows it's simply pure survival technique.
I took comfort when I saw other parents armed with shopping lists in notebooks and the catalogue for reference. It reassured me I was up for the challenge.
It seemed as though everyone there in the crowded toy department was party to some form of insanity - a fear that if they did not get to the sale that they were somehow remiss as a parent. When I looked at other parents their faces had a look which said: ``Yes, it's crazy but I'm here anyhow.''
Sadly, some parents cruelled their chances of success before they started because they had not taken the essential step off-loading their children. How could they expect to concentrate on the task at hand when their trolley was already half-full with a toddler or two. What were they thinking??
I had already taken my XY7 to school and XY3 to pre-school and was on schedule when I drove in the carpark at 8.45am.
I got in the store at 8.50am, took 30 mins to fill my trolley (it would have been 10 minutes sooner but I could not find the Ben 10 Alien Force Creation Chamber and I had to consult the toy sale help desk for the location). Progress on the layby queue was slow but steady. The usual lone lay-by staff member had three helpers as well as extra staff to pack the items for lay-by storage.
My mission was completed without a hitch or any hassles - I was relaxed and smiling the whole time. I headed off home, content in the knowledge I had broken the back of the Christmas shopping tasks earlier than ever. I was pleased to know I wouldn't be doing a last minute rush and not being able to find the toys my boys truly wanted to see on Christmas morning.
My planning kept me calm and focussed throughout my toy sale shopping mission.
So much so that I even chatted to other shoppers while standing in the queue for lay-by. I said to a woman with a trolley so packed full it was a wonder it did not crumple under the strain: ``Well the good thing is we can all relax about Christmas after this effort.'' The reply:``Oh no, this is just the start for me.''
Another mum in the line told me that after she got her trolley full safely put away on lay-byshe was off to the other major national chain store which also started its toy sale today . ``You're brave,'' I mumbled, totally shellshocked by the idea.
She's probably going to the opening day of the toy sale of another national chain store which starts closer to the end of July.
I won't - one mega toy sale a year is enough for me.