Happy holidays! Now let’s go Christmas shopping

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Happy holidays! Now let’s go Christmas shopping

For decades, US stores have opened their doors for Christmas shopping early on the day after the Thanksgiving holiday.

By (AP)

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Published: Sat 24 Nov 2012, 3:43 PM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 9:32 PM

But this year, major chains such as Target ushered customers in on Thanksgiving itself, turning the country’s busiest shopping day of the year into a two-day affair.

Despite an outcry from some employees, both stores and shoppers seemed to like it. Some people went straight from the dinner table to the stores.

I ate my turkey dinner and came right here,” said Rasheed Ali, a college student in New York City who bought a TV for $349 and a sewing machine for $50 when Target opened at 9 p.m. “Then I’m going home and eating more.”

This new approach could become a holiday tradition.

“This is going to be a new normal of how we shop,” said Jackie Fernandez, a retail expert at the consulting firm Deloitte.

It won’t be clear for a few days how many shoppers took advantage of the Thanksgiving hours. But about 17 percent of people said earlier this month that they planned to shop at stores that opened on Thanksgiving, according to an International Council of Shopping Centers-Goldman Sachs survey of 1,000 consumers.

Meanwhile, 33 percent intended to shop on Black Friday, down 1 percentage point from last year. Overall, it is estimated that sales on Black Friday — called that because it’s the day that stores traditionally move into making a profit for the year — will be up 3.8 percent to $11.4 billion this year, according to technology company ShopperTrak. It did not forecast sales from Thanksgiving Day.

The shift began in earnest a few years ago, when stores realized that sales alone weren’t enough to lure shoppers, especially with Americans becoming more comfortable buying things online. Opening on Thanksgiving was risky, with some employees and shoppers saying it was almost sacrilegious.

But many stores evidently felt they needed an edge, especially this season, when many Americans are worried about high unemployment and wondering whether Congress will be able to make a deal to avoid tax increases and deep spending cuts — called the “fiscal cliff” — in January.

Overall, the National Retail Federation estimates that sales in November and December will rise 4.1 percent this year to $586.1 billion, below last year’s 5.6 percent.

“Every retailer wants to beat everyone else,” said C. Britt Beemer, chairman of America’s Research Group, a firm based in Charleston, South Carolina. “Shoppers love it.”

At Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, most of its 4,000 U.S. namesake stores are already open 24 hours year-round. But the chain added special sales at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving, two hours earlier than a year ago.

The company said its start to the holiday season was “the best ever,” with nearly 10 million transactions and 5,000 items sold per second from 8 p.m. to midnight on Thanksgiving.

Macy’s, which opened at midnight, had 12,000 customers wrapped around its store in midtown Manhattan.

Julie Hansen, a spokeswoman at Minneapolis’ Mall of America, the nation’s largest shopping center, reported that 30,000 shoppers showed up for the mall’s midnight opening, up from 20,000 last year. “This was additional dollars,” Hansen said. This year, 200 of the 520 mall tenants opened at midnight following Thanksgiving, double from a year ago.

The earlier start meant the violence associated with shoppers fighting for bargains also began earlier. Two people were shot and wounded in Florida in a disagreement that police believe was over a parking spot outside a Wal-Mart. In Texas, a fight broke out when a man tried to cut in line at a Sears store.

To be sure, it’s not clear whether the longer hours will turn into extra dollars for retailers, or whether sales will simply be spread out over two days.

The Thanksgiving openings appeared to create two waves of shoppers — the late-nighters and the early birds.

Sam Chandler and his wife, Lori, started shopping at midnight on Thanksgiving. By the time they reached a Wal-Mart in South Carolina early Friday, they had already hit several stores.

“We’ve learned over the years, you have to stand in line early and pray,” Sam said.

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