Thanksgiving Day shopping growing in popularity
Joe Boudreau / San Jose Mercury News
Many hours before the mall-swarming mobs were expected to descend today, Tonya Burke frantically worked the aisles Thursday at Old Navy, grabbing baby outfits, jackets and T-shirts.
Instead of tending to a roasting turkey or watching football with the family at home, she was completing most of her holiday shopping at Valley Fair mall in Santa Clara — and staying within her recessionary budget.
“You are buying for many people, so those $5, $10 deals add up,” said Burke, whose husband was laid off this summer. “I’m more coupon-conscious. I’m getting the best for my money. We want to make sure we are not in debt in January.”
It was a mantra repeated by many turkey-day shoppers, psychologically and financially shaken by the worst economic downturn in decades.
While consumers are scrambling for deals, retailers are scrambling for business. Old Navy, which offered half-off deals on many items Thursday, was among a growing number of retailers that opened their doors on Thanksgiving Day. All of them were hoping to snag the relatively few dollars consumers are expected to part with this holiday shopping season, which officially kicks off early this morning.
According to the National Retail Federation, the number of people who said they wanted to hit the malls Thanksgiving Day is on the rise. In a survey last year, 10 percent said they would shop on the nation’s great day of feasting. This year, that number increased to 15 percent.
Old Navy, which opened a few stores on Thanksgiving last year as a test, decided to do the same with most of its stores this year, company spokeswoman Jennifer Liu said. On Thursday, shoppers enjoyed low-prices — minus the super-long lines and parking-lot traffic snarls.”It comes in waves — insanely busy and then just busy,” Liu said.
The holiday season represents 20 to 40 percent of revenue for companies, depending on the type of retailer, said Scott Krugman, a spokesman for the retail federation in Washington.
So retailers are doing everything they can to get the public’s attention, like using social network sites such as Facebook and Twitter to announce discounts and provide gift-giving tips.
The ones that decided to open Thanksgiving Day — a pre-recession rarity — “shows how desperate they are to grab dollars earlier than their competitors,” said retail consultant Jeff Green. “This is about the competitive landscape and the few dollars available to spend.”
As a result, Black Friday’s importance as the kickoff for the shopping season is becoming “diluted,” he said.
Nevertheless, malls are awaiting hordes of consumers today, when 74 million Americans 16 and older are expected to go shopping, said Jesse Tron, spokesman for the International Council of Shopping Centers. They will represent 31 percent of the nation’s households, up from 26 percent last year.
Analysts are predicting a 2 percent to 3 percent uptick in spending this holiday season, significantly better than last year’s anemic less-than-one-percent bump.
Americans, it seems, still love to shop for bargains.
“It’s fun to do this,” said 16-year-old Angelina Fang, who with her parents bought jeans and other clothes at Old Navy on Thursday. “It’s kind of like a celebration.”
At Santana Row, a handful of bargain hunters had already begun camping out at the Best Buy store Wednesday night, setting up tents and digging in for a long and cold wait.
Among the patient crowd was 17-year-old Carla Arango, who joined her brother and friends at the head of the line.
Her hoped-for payoff for spending two frigid nights and one day outside Best Buy?
Saving $110 on a Canon camera.