Shoppers Take Advantage of Thanksgiving Day Deals
Brian Dowling/The Hartford Courant
Sue Palmer of East Hartford has no desire to shop on Black Friday.
“I really don’t like the rush,” she said Thanksgiving morning while shopping at Old Navy in West Hartford for the store’s half-off sale.
“I thought I’d be pushing and shoving people today and I’m not.”
This year, shoppers waiting until Black Friday might be losing ground on deals to some new competition: Thanksgiving Day shoppers.
Thursday morning’s sparse crowds grew to longer lines by the evening, as many pulled away from the dinner table and into a shopping center. The ability to sneak out late Thursday and avoid the longer lines on Friday lured many into the fray on Thanksgiving.
“Unless my kids twist my arms, I won’t come out to see any of the confusion on Friday,” Palmer said.
Old Navy — along with Target, Sears, Toys-R-Us, Wal-Mart and Gap — is taking advantage of the growing trend toward Thursday shopping. About a quarter of shoppers surveyed last week by financial consultant Deloitte said that they plan to shop on Thanksgiving in search of deals, up from 17 percent last year.
The increase was evident at Wal-Mart on Flatbush Avenue in Hartford, where deals were spaced every two hours Thursday night. The result was a continuous stream of consumers throughout the late evening hours, avoiding long lines.
In the store, lines of people streamed down aisles for flat screen TVs. Getting through the electronics section required a certain comfort with squeezing between a constant press of humanity.
Hartford police had about half a dozen officers placed throughout the store, and reported only a few altercations between people waiting in line.
Terryann Walker ventured out to Wal-Mart late Thursday to buy a children’s tablet that she had put on layaway a few weeks earlier. She said this was her first time shopping on a Thanksgiving weekend because “normally people are camping out, but not today.”
As stores’ opening hours move back from the dark morning hours of Friday to late Thursday and now Thanksgiving daylight, some stores have embraced the trend, others not so much.
“We are one of the few retailers that say that we are not going to open on Thanksgiving,” said Gregg Richards, president of P.C. Richard & Son. “Would our cash registers ring and would we do business? Probably. But there are a few things more important than the mighty dollar.”
Data on the effect of stores being open on Thanksgiving Day is hard to come by, but Alison Paul, vice chairman at Deloitte, said it was likely that sales made on Thanksgiving cut into demand later in the holiday season.
“It shifts spending,” she said. “It doesn’t create any more spending.”
Though Thanksgiving Day shopping might not be the cause, industry groups and retail experts expect a strong increase in retail sales this holiday season. The National Retail Federation projects a 4.1 percent increase in sales for the season over last year; the International Council of Shopping Centers projects a 3 percent increase.
Jeff Green, a retail analyst with Jeff Green Partners in Phoenix, said that sales could jump 5 percent from last year. One reason for the confidence: back-to-school sales.
“Sales for back-to-school items were so strong,” Green said. “And that sort of an analogy shows us where Christmas shopping may end up.”