Holiday Shopping Season Begins with 'Early Black Friday' Sales

Some stores hoped to jumpstart Black Friday with Thanksgiving sales -- and some shoppers took the bait. Not all Americans tucked into turkey with their families on Thanksgiving. Some were out shopping, hitting sales ahead of the crowds expected Friday.

After a year of cautious spending and worry over an uncertain economy and high unemployment, more stores this year extended hours into Thanksgiving Day, a day when stores are traditionally closed.

Many grumble about the relentless march of commercialism creeping into the holiday. But at least some shoppers took the bait.

While crowds appeared relatively light compared with the weekend ahead, the extended hours drew in overseas visitors, those who have to work Friday and some who couldn't resist a good deal.

Who's Open?

Sears (SHLD), Kmart and some Sports Authority, Gap (GPS), Old Navy and Banana Republic stores were among those open Thursday.

At an Old Navy in Lutherville, Md., Brenda Tarver, 65, a retired postal employee from Baltimore, was dragged out of the house by her daughters, but was finding good deals on clothing.

"They've got good prices and a variety of items. A lot of things are 50% off," she said.

Willy Gerelbest, 45, a counselor from Brooklyn, was shopping at Kmart in New York for sneakers on sale for $9.99.

"I saw the advertising and just wanted to check it out," he said. "Tomorrow I have to work."

David Friedman, president of marketing for Sears Holdings Corp. said the decision to open 7 a.m.-noon on Thanksgiving Day stemmed from positive response to a similar "early Black Friday" sale in November, as well as success with Kmart, which Sears also owns and has been open on Thanksgiving for 19 years.

Workers will earn holiday pay and still be home in time for a Thanksgiving meal, Friedman said.

Charity Draws Shoppers

At the Sears store at the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn., the largest U.S. shopping and entertainment complex, sales were fueled by a charity walk at the mall.

The walk - and a good sale - drew Helen Schultz, of White Bear Lake, Minn. She bought a 19-inch RCA LCD HDTV for $129.99, saving $70. But she said wouldn't have bought it Thursday if she hadn't been there for the charity walk.

"I don't think shopping should be done on Thanksgiving," Schultz said. "But they need to make money."

Toys R Us CEO Jerry Storch said the company decided to open at 10 p.m. Thanksgiving Day because reaction was so positive to the stores' midnight opening last year. Before that, stores opened at 5 a.m. on Friday. He expects brisk sales of hot toys like Santa-ma-jig, a green and red singing doll.

"Customers lined up at 8 p.m. last year. They wanted us to open earlier," he said.

Online Deals Don't Inspire a Bonanza

A similar promotional blitz greeted online shoppers Thursday, though the holiday isn't a bonanza there, either.

Last year, consumers spent about $300 million online on Thanksgiving, compared with $887 million on Cyber Monday, according to comScore.

According to Akamai Technologies, which tracks traffic to 270 retail sites, traffic peaked at 11 a.m. and was up about 14% from Wednesday.

John Thompson, senior vice president and general manager of Best Buy's (BBY) website, said this year the company reached out to its frequent online shoppers and gave them early access to deals.

"Thanksgiving Day is a day when we are seeing more and more consumers choose online as a place to begin their research and actually transact," he said.

Some Employees Give Thanks for Thanksgiving Work

With nearly 15 million unemployed in the U.S., some store workers were grateful for the holiday pay or extra time off that comes with working on a holiday.

Bryce Humerick, 21, of Towson, Md., a sales associate at the Old Navy store in Lutherville, said he was happy to be making time-and-a-half.

"I don't mind," he said. "My Thanksgiving dinner isn't until later."

Not everyone was so pleased.

In the hardware department of the Mall of America's Sears, John McDonough had volunteered to work, but he bemoaned the increasing commercialization of the holiday season in general.

"It's a crying shame," he said. "What has corporate America done to us?"

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Google...MALL FEVER: WILL CHRISTMAS SHOPPING REVIVE THE ECONOMY THIS YEAR AS IT HASN'T IN YEARS PAST?......November 19, 2010.......Funny how, back in 1929, we had a black Thursday and then a Black Friday as the market crashed, plunging the country into a depression. Now we have every retailer in every mall in America on their knees praying for a prosperous black Friday the day after Thanksgiving. ~~~~~ If you read this argument before, it’s because I have been making it since 2007, year in and year out. That’s on account of the reality that our economy is driven more by consumption than production, and most consuming takes place during the holidays. ~~~~~ So once again we are being asked to join a global ritual even if we are broke. ~~~~~ Get in gear people, and get your wallets back to the mall: do your duty for Santa and Wall Street. It will be difficult for the economic recovery to make much headway without a pick-up in consumer spending as it accounts for two-thirds of the economy. ~~~~~ Here’s the scenario as this Thanksgiving rolls around. The economy is in deep, deep trouble with record setting unemployment highs, millions on food stamps, and millions more facing foreclosures. The big banks seem to have “recovered;” most Americans haven’t. ~~~~~ Nevertheless, Christmas is for the shopping, a time to feign merriment through gift gifting, to spend what you don’t have. And the process will be “stimulated” and we will be guilted and mesemerized in our own homes by a non-stop electronic sellathon as TV advertising goes into hyperspeed. ~~~~~ Local TV channels will soon start hyping the “action” at the local malls announcing plans to “go live” without mentioning that they are doing it to attract more advertising, or as part of the deal they already have with sponsors to add news time to ad time. ~~~~~ If the past is any guide, we will be told how packed the parking lots are—and they will, thanks to the hype, probably be packed. Part of the reason is the deep discounting and special sales –what are called “lost leaders” to get customers into the store even if you have to bribe them to come. All night sales are the latest marketing shtick. ~~~~~ What happened last year was that most consumers only bought the sales items and left most of the other goods untouched. No wonder, a number of malls are now in foreclosure. ~~~~~ Higher until the credit card bills come and the returns start when folks realize they can’t afford what they bought. Almost every year, after Christmas, the credit card companies report sales described at the time as “historic” became in the end “disappointing” or didn’t “didn’t live up to expectations.” ~~~~~ But consumption requires people with money to spend or with credit cards that are not tapped out. This is no longer a sure thing especially as unemployment benefits run out and discretionary income freezes. ~~~~~ Quiet as its kept, banks are in many cases as tapped out as their customers. And at long last, some are being probed for criminal conduct. Reuters reports: “The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp (FDIC) is conducting about 50 criminal investigations at U.S. banks that have failed since the start of the financial crisis, the Wall Street Journal said. ~~~~~ This is just the tip of the iceberg.~~~~~ So we go back to square one: A distorted and troubled economy. A population addicted to buying things. A manipulated media. And, many signs of deeper trouble ahead as wars are escalated and extended while the Congress is paralyzed along parochial and partisan lines.~~~~~ The resurgent Republicans will not be ringing jingle bells but playing Scrooge this year. Many consumers will not be able to shop until they drop this year because they have already dropped to new lows. ~~~~~ Unfortunately, a feast followed by days at the mall will not change any of this, and remember, if you will, the price our first Americans paid so that we could stuff ourselves on the road to national obesity. ~~~~~ Happy Thanksgiving........

November 26 2010 at 12:51 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

While small group of legally and without anyone control appropriates much of the generated value and your profits, bonuses and premiums paid by workers, students and other taxpayers should not be excluded that the current crisis turns into social unrest and political violence without precedent accompanied by class hatred. Marx was right. Capitalism is bright, planetary and suicide…and this is going from 1960-is until now….

November 25 2010 at 11:51 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

Yeah... shop til you drop America. The Chinese are counting on it.

November 25 2010 at 11:18 PM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply

I brought few sweaters today at Old Navy it's very good deal! I have to work tomorrow Black Friday so just glad that I don't have to shop on Black Friday period. Happy Thanksgiving

November 25 2010 at 10:47 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

No jobs! No Thanksgiving and certainly NO CHRISTMAS been skipping these foolish so called holidays for years now. I refuse to buy into the commercialism anymore. I make my own gifts and they are highly appreciated and cost me only in materials which are not slick new electronic foolish gadgets ect. This country needs to get a grip before its too late.

November 25 2010 at 10:30 PM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply

savgmouse, get a grip. Thanksgiving is supposed to be spent with family, friends and neighbors. I love my country, but I feel that all the employees whether they work in an office or a retail enviroment should be off to spend time with theri families. My store was once open on Thanksgiving, but that never happended again, and glad of it. Some stores are opening at midnight, while Toys R US is opening at 10pm. I can't believe that these people get a kick out of shopping at all hours of the day or night. Not my idea of fun. Regular store hours except maybe extended an hour in December, but that is it. Kohl's is opening at 3am. Think about those poor peole that have to go in and work at that time of night. Christmas is the one holiday where everything is closed, except for Walgreens and CVS which is reasonable, because if a child or an adult is sick and in need of medication you can't get a doctor appointment, so a pharmacy is your only option. John McDonough is right, what has corporate America done to us? The opening of stores gets earlier and earlier every two to three years. Pretty soon all the stores will be open 24 hours starting Thanksgiving night and end on Black Friday night. As of now it is heading in that direction. And I hope somebody gets a hold of this and says: Look, let's all agree on an opening time of say 6am and keep it that way every year for Black Friday, so that way most employees will get mostly a full nights sleep, rather than half their normal amount of sleep.

November 25 2010 at 10:01 PM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply

Ohhhh, but the economy remember ? It is soooo bad, people can't possibly have money to spend on black friday and christmas, I mean, what about the economy ? It is sooooo bad remember?

November 25 2010 at 9:50 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to misterrobsir's comment

No way to forget it.....the 26 year high 10% unemployment,the 6 year low dow,home forclosures unseen in this countries history.....just the second worst economy in 234 years of this being a country.

November 25 2010 at 10:01 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

Well...many just use CREDIT CARD and go more in the DEBT...and never pay in the full month after month,and that's stupid...

November 25 2010 at 11:50 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

I feel bad for those who do black friday they are the ones who do not know how to give love but only buy love.....

November 25 2010 at 9:11 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply

Those sales should be called "Merchants' Holiday-Scams."

November 25 2010 at 8:35 PM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply

Best Buy pisses me off, I called their 1-800 line to find out when the online black friday deals would be offered, the person on the phone said only on friday, I said are you sure? she said yes, so I just went online at best buy only to find out the sale was today! not friday, and the item I wanted was SOLD OUT, what the hell was the 1-800 line for, if no one knew what the hell was going on, get your **** straight best buy, if the peolpe at the 1-800 line can't help, then don't put the number up saying they can

November 25 2010 at 7:54 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply