Confused about where to shop for those Thanksgiving deals? Have no fear. We’ve put together a list for you.
USA TODAY NETWORK
NEW YORK — Thanksgiving has traditionally boiled down to three “Fs”: food, football and family. Many Americans can now add a fourth F to the mix, the “frenzy” that comes with holiday shopping.
We’re not just talking Black Friday. More and more folks are shopping in person on Thanksgiving Day, with major retailers such as Best Buy, Macy’s, Sears, Target and Toys R Us, all opening their doors even before the last of the turkey has gotten cold.
And online shopping is off to a brisk start. Shoppers spent $1.15 billion online between midnight and 5 p.m. ET, a 13.6% increase over last year, reported Adobe Digital Insights. Adobe is forecasting Thanksgiving Day online sales to hit $2 billion for the first time, a 15.6% year-over-year growth increase. A record $820 million is expected to come from mobile devices, with $449 million spent by 5 p.m. ET.
Adobe added that half the people it surveyed expect to shop after 5 p.m. on Thanksgiving, after families pushed back from the dinner table.
“Thanksgiving Day is still on track to either hit or come close to $2 billion, although heavy discounting seen in the early hours of the day has slowed revenue growth,” Adobe reported.
In all, an estimated 137.4 million consumers plan to or are considering shopping during the holiday weekend, according to the annual survey released by the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights Analytics. Twenty-one percent of the weekend shoppers plan to shop on Thanksgiving Day itself, nearly the same as the 22% who did so last year.
Still, not every retailer is comfortable with the idea. There’s been a recent tug of war over whether retailers should be open on Thanksgiving Day, with some deciding to close their doors this year to boost employee morale, score points with consumers who dislike the practice, and preserve the dwindling sales power of Black Friday.
Tennessean Tom Alberty told The (Clarksville, Tenn.) Leaf-Chronicle last week, that he doesn’t like shopping on the holiday because it takes away from family time. “You have 300 days to shop throughout the year. Why do you pick Thanksgiving?”
The Mall of America stayed shuttered this holiday. CBL Associates Properties Inc. planned to close 72 of its 89 malls this Thanksgiving after keeping them open the last three years, and electronics chain hhgregg closed all of its 220 stores.
But most major retailers decided to continue this newest tradition of kicking off the holiday shopping marathon right after — or even before — the Thanksgiving feast. Toys R Us, for instance, opened its doors at 5 p.m. on the holiday and will keep its stores open for 30 hours straight.
“One of the reasons we opened our stores on Thanksgiving … is there’s just a lot of people that enjoy that as part of their Thanksgiving tradition,’’ says Toys R Us’ CEO Dave Brandon. “And if they want to shop … we want to be open and available to them.’’
In Wisconsin, Mike Franke knows something about tradition. He likes being first in line for Black Friday deals, so he planted himself in the small slice of real estate right outside the Best Buy store in Delafield.
Franke didn’t arrive a few hours before Best Buy opened at 5 p.m. on Thanksgiving. Or even a few days before.
No, Franke is a hearty shopper with time to burn, or at least vacation to use from his job at the Wisconsin Department of Motor Vehicles. So he took roost at Best Buy a full week before the big sale.
Arriving at 3 p.m. on Nov. 17, Franke set up two tents — one for sleeping, one for a living room outfitted with a heater and television hooked into Direct TV powered by his own portable generator. He’s done this at the same Best Buy for the last 10 years.
And the object of his desire? A TV.
“It’s tradition, believe it or not. Everyone thinks it’s the deals, but it’s the tradition. I actually met the other people in line 10 years ago, and we see them every year and we’ve become friends,” Franke said Thursday afternoon, about two hours before he was the first person through the sliding glass doors to snap up a Toshiba 50-inch 4K TV for $199 for his man cave.
Charlie Nardi, a longtime manager for JCPenney, said there was a line of customers when he arrived at the Vero Beach, Fla., store at 1:15 p.m. Thursday, almost two hours before the 3 p.m. opening.
“Customers who came so early are going to be happy to shop,” said Nardi during an employee pep talk before the opening. “All of our hard work for the last couple weeks will come to fruition today. It’s going to be crazy all day.”
At a nearby Best Buy, Vero Beach resident Bobby Lusquinos said he lined up at 2 a.m., 15 hours before the 5 p.m. opening.
He came for the 50-inch Toshiba 4K television for $199 and a $349 Dell laptop.
“I rather have it in my hand than order online,” Lusquinos said, adding that he wouldn’t have to worry about order cancellation this way.
Like Lusquinos in Florida, Jess Coulson of Milwaukee had a plan. Coulson visited in advance every store where she planned to shop on Thanksgiving, noting where in-store exclusive items were located. Some retailers handed out store maps to people in line, which Coulson said was a help.
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Coulson started her reconnaissance Wednesday night, stopping at the Best Buy in Delafield to check store displays, and returned at 12:30 p.m. on Thanksgiving to get a spot in line. She also wore three layers of pants and brought a chair and coffee for comfort.
Coulson shops with her brother, helping him pick up presents — including her own, to make sure she’ll get something she wants — and she stationed her sister at Target in Delafield, sending electronic messages with items to buy.
The legwork always pays off, Coulson said. “That way I can make one pass, get everything I want and go straight to the checkout.”
Friends Emily Vargas and Riley Wendlick arrived at Southridge Mall in the Milwaukee suburbs at 3 p.m. so they could buy $10 shirts and $25 sweatshirts at Pink. At 5:15 p.m. they were first in line outside the store on the mall’s second floor, waiting for employees to raise the gate. They didn’t know when the store was opening but were hoping it wasn’t much longer.
Wendlick planned to buy two shirts and a sweatshirt while Vargas was purchasing one shirt and one sweatshirt.
“If we put our purchase together (to spend at least $75) you get a free tote bag and free lotion and perfume,” said Wendlick, who wanted the perfume and lotion while Vargas wanted the tote bag.
The Southern California-based Hispanic big box retailer Curacao opened its dozen stores on Thanksgiving for the first time, running a four-hour sale from 8 a.m. to noon, an accommodation timewise for its shoppers and staff; it will reopen on Black Friday at 4 a.m. Employees came to work on a voluntary basis. “It turned out to be smashing success,” says Ramesh Swamy, an executive vice president at the company, who said there were decent lines of shoppers right at 8 a.m. Top-selling categories included electronics, furniture and toys. “We’re going to do it again. Everybody else zigged and we zagged. It was a very non-traditional opening.”
When it comes to online, Adobe is reporting that a record $27.2 billion has already been spent since the beginning of November, a 4.28% increase compared to last year.
Entering the Thanksgiving weekend, supplies were already low for hot-selling electronics such as Nintendo’s NES Classic Edition, New Nintendo 3DS Super Mario and Sony’s PlayStation VR bundle, as well as Hatchimals toys. Other early online bestsellers include Samsung 4K TVs, iPads, Apple MacBooks, electronic scooters, vehicles for kids, Lego sets and Paw Patrol toys.
“We expect to see even more items out of stock in the coming days,” says Tamara Gaffney, principal analyst at director at Adobe Digital Insights.
That said, Adobe says that products are less likely to be out of stock this year than last year. Out-of-stock notifications are at 6.4% versus 11% a year ago.
At the Vero Beach, Best Buy, for example, manager Paul Moss said the store had a lot of inventory available.
Walmart was looking to quiet fears that some popular products will be out of stock. The retailer tweeted out that “Not only will customers find great prices on the Black Friday items they want, Walmart secured substantial availability of these products.” Walmart said it has stocked up with more than 1.5 million TVs, nearly 2 million tablets and computers and 3 million video games.
Walmart was leading the “social buzz” with a 35% share of Black Friday “mentions,” Adobe Social reports, above Target (34%), Kohl’s (11%), Toys R Us (7%) and Sam’s Club (4%).
Jon Hart of Asheville, N.C., has been a holiday-shopping “door-buster” for a decade. This year he headed to a Best Buy before the store opened. Hart points to a positive shift in customer service.
“The management comes out and takes care of you better than they used to,” Hart said. “They bring you a flier, ask what you want. They make you feel welcome. Before, they used to have cops out here,” he said. “It felt like, ‘Give us your money and get out.’ It’s not like that anymore.”
Contributing: Charisse Jones, USA TODAY; Tonya Maxwell, Asheville (N.C.) Citizen-Times; Kelly Tyko, Treasure Coast Newspapers, and Meg Jones, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
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