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After the turkey, shopping frenzy begins

Posted November 27, 2014

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— In North Carolina and across the nation, early-bird shoppers headed to stores on Thanksgiving in what’s becoming a new holiday tradition.

Caitlin Flyn was one of the first 100 people to get inside Toys R Us in Cary when the doors opened at 5 p.m. It wasn’t her first Black Friday experience, so the crowds didn’t bother her. In fact, she enjoys it.

“It’s just fun,” Flyn said. “It kind of gets us into the Christmas spirit.”

Spirits appeared to be up as people weaved their way in and out of aisles.

Curt Geller and his daughter don’t often shop on Black Friday, but they know strategy is key. They found what they wanted within minutes.

“This little Spiderman power wheel (is) for our grandson, who is a year-and-a-half,” Geller said.

At the nearby Target, Hantang Qin said he had been working up his shopping strategy since arriving in the United States from China this week. It appeared to pay off; he was the first in line.

“I’m here from 11:30 this morning,” he said as he waited for the store to open at 6 p.m. Employees said they expected about 1,200 customers in the first 30 minutes.

Shoppers say the deals are worth the wait and worth cutting Thanksgiving dinner a little short for that one-time deal on a coveted item.

“We were here yesterday and I was told there was only one here,” Qin said about his purchase. “So, I thought, ‘Oh, I have to be the first one.’”

Thanksgiving shopping has come a long way. Just a few years ago when a few stores started opened late on the holiday, the move was met with resistance from workers and shoppers who believed the day should be sacred.

But last year, more than dozen major retailers opened at some point on Thanksgiving evening. And this year, at least half of them — including Target, Macy's, Staples and J.C. Penney — opened earlier in the evening on the holiday.

The Thanksgiving openings are one way retailers are trying to compete for Americans' holiday dollars.

Used to be that Black Friday was when they'd focus their sales promotions. But increasingly, they've been pushing those promotions earlier on Friday — and eventually into the holiday itself — to grab deal-hungry shoppers' attention.

Bill Martin, co-founder of ShopperTrak, which tracks data at 70,000 stores globally, is expecting a sales increase of 3 percent to 5 percent to $2.57 billion to $2.62 billion on Thanksgiving. Last year's figure grew two-fold from the year before.

The National Retail Federation expects 25.6 million shoppers to take advantage of the Thanksgiving openings, down slightly from last year.

Kathy Grannis, a spokeswoman at the retail trade group, said that earlier promotions in the month and shoppers' uncertainty about when they can get the best deals are factors that could lead to fewer shoppers coming out on the holiday.

Nevertheless, Thanksgiving is starting to take a bite out of Black Friday business. Indeed, sales dropped 13.2 percent to $9.74 billion on Black Friday last year. Analysts said Thanksgiving sales were in part responsible for the decline.

And Gerald Storch, who runs a retail consultancy called Storch Advisors, said stores that open on

Thanksgiving get more of their share of sales for the four-day holiday weekend than others who open on Friday.

"That's why they keep doing it," he said. "You have to be first."
 

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