Steve Levin/The Bakersfield Californian—Marlo Escamilla spent less than 20 minutes shopping Thanksgiving morning, enough time at Valley Plaza’s Old Navy store to get her son’s Christmas gift of — spoiler alert — clothes.
As the city’s only major retailer open Thursday morning aside from Wal-Mart Stores, which have been open on Thanksgiving for 25 years, Old Navy was hoping to share some of the shopping lucre that flows during the five-day-long period beginning Thursday that is so profitable for retailers the days have earned sales-related sobriquets.
Escamilla knows all about sales and shopping. She got hers done early so she’d have time to enjoy her day before going to work Thursday night — at the apparel and accessory store Express, in Valley Plaza.
The real mayhem didn’t begin until after 8 p.m., when other retailers like Target, Sears, Kohl’s and J.C. Penney opened to get their slice of sales. Toys R Us opened at 5 p.m. and Best Buy at 6.
Last year, most retailers opened at 9 p.m.
The National Retail Federation expects holiday shoppers to spend 3.9 percent more this year than in 2012, when they dropped more than $579 billion. But the number of people actually going to stores is dropping.
According to a Deloitte holiday survey, 48 percent of shoppers planned to hit the stores during the five-day shopping spree that includes Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday. The same percentage said they would shop online instead. The other 4 percent will use catalogs.
On Thanksgiving day, Deloitte’s survey estimated 13 percent of shoppers would physically go to stores, down from 23 percent in 2012. That decline is expected to continue on Friday, when 53 percent of respondents in the survey said they’d shop in stores, down from 63 percent last year.
There will still be a lot of money spent: more than $602 billion, according to the NRF. The most popular holiday gifts are expected to be, in order, gift cards, tech products and toys.
Shoppers expect to spend an average of $286 over the holiday weekend, according to Deloitte.
“We still expect to see a lot of people to be out shopping,” said Jackie Fernandez, a partner in Deloitte’s retail division.
An estimated 35 million people shopped on Thanksgiving in 2012, but Black Friday remains the uber shopping day: 97 million people are expected to be out Friday.
Count William Bevels among the shoppers, sort of. He was sitting in a chair outside of Target at Valley Plaza at 10:30 Thursday morning, third in line for the store’s opening at 8 p.m. He had agreed to wait so his mom didn’t have to. Their goal: a 50-inch TV which they said was on sale for $229.
“She didn’t want to get in line so I came for her,” said Bevels, 18. “She’s paying for it.”
According to Jeff Green, head of a Phoenix-based retail consulting group, Thanksgiving is becoming a day when major retailers pay for fully staffed stores to handle the initial onslaught of shoppers who are there for deals known as “door busters.”
“But for the rest of the night (the stores) were dead,” Green said.
Green estimated that normally women make up as much as 90 percent of holiday shoppers, but not on Thanksgiving, when the percentage drops to about 60 percent, he said, because they’re more involved with family, food and the clean up than men.
These days are important to retailers because of lower than expected sales for Halloween and back-to-school.
Between 20 percent and 40 percent of retailers’ annual sales come from November and December sales, according to the NFR.
Another potentially negative effect for retail sale totals is that Hanukkah has already begun, meaning some shoppers already completed their spending.
Overall, 18 percent of people said they had completed their holiday shopping by Nov. 1, according to Deloitte.
They obviously weren’t among the crowd Thursday night an hour before stores opened.
Sears at Valley Plaza had posted handwritten signs on doors directing shoppers to different entrances for electronics, for example, and appliances. The line for appliances was more than 100 people long.
At the mall’s main entrance, people slumped against the four doubledoors, protecting their spots.
Beka Baker and Danni Blankenship, both 16, arrived just after 7 p.m. in order to get a good parking spot.
Baker had $35 to spend for shirts at Hot Topic and jewelry at Forever 21.
“I already know they’re having a sale,” said Baker, who learned online about the shirt sale at Hot Topic, figuring her $35 was plenty.
“You can get a lot if you shop right,” she said.