Some shoppers hit stores before the turkey’s even cold
BY MAUDLYNE IHEJIRIKA AND SANDRA GUY Staff Reporters November 22, 2012 10:00PM
A group of customers line up in advance of sales at Wal-Mart, 8301 S. Holland Rd., in Chicago, Ill. on Thursday, November 22, 2012. Several dozen had lined up before being allowed to enter the store shortly before 6pm. | Andrew A. Nelles~Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 24, 2012 6:56AM
Black Friday kicks off today — or was it last night?
Most Chicagoans celebrated Thanksgiving by eating, spending time with family, eating, napping, eating, watching football and then eating some more. But some energetic consumers got a head start on their Black Friday shopping on Thursday — and certain retailers were more than happy to help.
At a Gander Mountain store in Joliet, a line of people was waiting to get in before the “door buster” deals began at 9 a.m. Thursday.
Barbara Godawa, 54, Naperville, came out to get some deals. But the serious shopping for Godawa was to start later, she said: “We are going to gather around and have a traditional dinner,” she said. Then “we go through ads and pick our grab bag and get ready, and decide where we are going to go. . . We do it every year. It’s a tradition with me and my two sisters.”
Black Friday refers to retailers turning a profit or being “in the black” for the year, aided by sales on the day after Thanksgiving. It is one of the busiest shopping days of the year.
But in what’s being called “Gray Thursday,” some major retailers launched Black Friday on Thursday night, a move that some shoppers appreciated but which drew complaints and petitions from retail workers, their families and others who want Thanksgiving to remain a holiday.
A small but steady stream of customers took advantage of the chance to shop on Thanksgiving afternoon at Kmart in Wicker Park, open all day Thursday.
Shantannel Crumb, 21, was among them, pushing a cart overloaded with bedding and Christmas gifts, including a giant pair of slippers with the words “I’m not fat, I’m big boned,” written across the front.
“I’ve got everything I need,” she said, declining to say who the slippers were for.
Tinley Park resident Gary Lemke, a 17-year veteran of Black Friday, arrived at a local Best Buy at 11 p.m. Wednesday, equipped with a tent he uses for ice fishing and gear including a portable generator and propane-fueled heater/stove combo. He was awaiting the store’s midnight opening with his son-in-law, Nick Ortberg.
“I haven’t had a Thanksgiving meal in years,” Lemke said. “I’ve got a backpack full of MREs (meals ready to eat).”
Ernestine Murphy, 65, of Washington Park, converged on a Wal-Mart in Chatham at 6:30 p.m. Thursday with various family members, after hosting 20 people for Thanksgiving dinner at her house.
She was standing in a line 30 deep, hoping to grab an Emerson 40-inch TV for her husband, for $198. Her daughter, Meka Murphy, 38, meanwhile, was on the other side of the store in a line just about as long, hoping to grab a discounted Xbox video game system for a nephew.
“My daughter is the one who comes up with the plan for Black Friday, and after dinner, we escaped,” Ernestine Murphy said
The Thursday night hours are not new this year, but rather a growing trend.
Kmart has a tradition of opening its doors to shoppers on Thanksgiving Day, having done so for more than 20 years. Other stores that opened for business on Thanksgiving this year included Wal-Mart, Target and Toys’R’Us.
Experts say retailers set their hours to please their customers, though it can be hard to measure the necessity of such an early start.
“The store has to make a cost-benefit analysis of whether it’s worth it to be open,” Morningstar Inc. retail analyst Paul Swinand said. It can look “like you got incremental sales from being open that evening, but the question is would you have just made that sale the next week anyway?”
Lee Berggren, 43, of LaSalle County, had to run an errand in Joliet Thursday, but otherwise he stayed out of the Gray Thursday/Black Friday fray.
Stores “make such a big thing out of it,” Berggren complained. “They commercialized everything. The way things are now, with the economy the way it is, the stores are getting greedier and greedier. They are trying to get every last dollar they can, if they have to stay open on Thanksgiving, I just think it’s way too much.”
Most forecasters expect shoppers to spend more this Thanksgiving, but consumers’ moods are tough to read with the economy still uncertain.
Economist Michael Hicks of Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., expects no growth in sales.
“Lower household incomes, a stagnant labor market and the lingering effects of Hurricane Sandy will make this a disappointing holiday season,” Hicks predicted.
He thinks two exceptions will be furniture sales and big-box discount stores. The National Retail Federation predicts overall holiday spending in November and December will jump 4.1 percent from last year, to $586.1 billion.
A Deloitte Consulting survey showed 47 percent of Chicagoans will buy only sale items and 31 percent will shop for those bargains on Black Friday.
The most popular items they’ll seek deals on are:
◆ Gift cards: 42 percent.
◆ Clothing: 39 percent.
◆ Electronics: 33 percent.
◆ Books: 29 percent.
◆ CDs/DVDs: 21 percent.
Deloitte, which includes January in its estimate, forecast a 3.5 percent to 4 percent increase in holiday sales over last year. Other forecasts include: ShopperTrak, a retail-foot traffic counter, predicting 3.3 percent growth, and the International Council of Shopping Centers, 2.9 percent growth.
Online shopping is expected to show a bigger increase. The National Retail Federation forecasts a 12 percent increase in online shopping, to $96 billion, and the ICSC expects a 12.6 percent increase.
The federation says up to 147 million people plan to shop this holiday weekend, a 3.3 percent decrease from 152 million who planned to do so last year.
The federation predicts the average shopper will spend $749.51 on gifts, decor, greeting cards and other items, up 1.2 percent from last year.
Contributing: Kim Janssen, Mike Nolan, Jaime Angio