Cityscape

On Black Friday, shoppers snap up bargains

Updated: 2013-11-30T03:16:22Z

By JOYCE SMITH

The Kansas City Star

The second shift took over Friday.

After hitting stores Thanksgiving night as holiday shopping season opened ever earlier, many shoppers were out again in the predawn hours Friday to continue to score some of the best deals of the season. They were joined in large numbers by shoppers who had stayed in Thursday and slept off their Thanksgiving dinners.

Across the country, more than a dozen major retailers, from Wal-Mart to Target to Toys R Us, opened on Thanksgiving Day and planned to stay open through Black Friday, the traditional start to the holiday shopping season. As a result, crowds formed early and often throughout the two days. Some consumers actually planned to shop in shifts, starting on Thanksgiving evening and then going home for a few hours of shuteye before heading back out early Friday for “doorbuster” deals.

The National Retail Federation estimates that holiday sales will increase 3.9 percent this year to $602.1 billion, and much of that shopping is still left to be done.

“Consumers are feeling better about the economy compared to last year, and they plan to take advantage of sales during key periods,” said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst for the NPD Group of market researchers. “But this year’s holiday will be a tricky one for retailers.”

Cohen noted that because Thanksgiving came so late in November this year, there are fewer days between Thanksgiving and Christmas. And, he said, there are no new big retail trends this year to supercharge consumer interest.

“Retailers will have to rely more on promotions to excite the consumer,” Cohen said.

Many stores north of the river were open on Thanksgiving, which made for a less hectic Black Friday. Still, stores such as J.C. Penney had plenty of shoppers snapping up bargains.

Retailers at the Zona Rosa shopping center were offering discounts, including American Eagle Outfitters and Old Navy, which were shaving 50 percent off everything purchased Friday.

Shoppers out Friday ranged from indifferent to enthusiastic about being able to shop on Thanksgiving.

Kristina Sestrich of Liberty stayed home Thursday.

“I’ve done it in the past, but after family Thursday, I didn’t want to deal with the masses,” said Sestrich, who was shopping at Dillard’s on Friday.

She plans to spend a little less than last year with a budget set for Christmas gifts. Still, she is feeling pretty optimistic.

“I love the holidays and sales, which put me in a good mood,” she said.

Over at Macy’s in Metro North Mall, Andrew Kniev had his gift list in hand Friday, which he was filling at department and discount stores. He plans to spend more on gifts this year.

“We’re going to finish getting most of this done today so we can enjoy the holiday,” he said.

One big change this year for Kniev was shopping on Thanksgiving. He went to a Wal-Mart store, which he said was less hectic than he had previously seen on Black Fridays, and snagged a TV at a bargain price. He is now a convert to shopping on the holiday.

“I’d do it again next year,” he said.

Thanksgiving Day shopping may seem too early for some folks. But take another look at the calendar this year. There are six fewer shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year than last.

So the extra Thanksgiving shopping hours helped.

The holiday shopping season is transforming right before shoppers’ eyes. For nearly a decade, Black Friday had been the official start to the busy buying binge sandwiched between Thanksgiving and Christmas. It was named Black Friday because that was traditionally when retailers turned a profit, or moved out of the red and into the black.

But in the past few years, retailers have pushed opening times into Thanksgiving night. Some like Macy’s and J.C. Penney opened on Thanksgiving for the first time this year. Others like Gap Inc., which owns Banana Republic, Gap and Old Navy, opened some stores earlier on Thanksgiving than the year before. And many pushed up the discounting that used to be reserved for Black Friday into early November.

At Toys R Us in Overland Park, a line stretched around the building for the 5 p.m. Thanksgiving Day opening. By 5:30 p.m., a checkout line of full carts snaked to the back of the store. The store planned to stay open until 10 p.m. Friday.

Still, the earlier openings and sales were met with some resistance. Some workers’ rights groups mounted protests on both Thanksgiving and Black Friday because they opposed having retail employees miss family meals at home. And some shoppers had said they would not venture out on Thanksgiving because they believe it’s a sacred holiday meant to spend with family and friends.

But that didn’t stop many from taking advantage of the earlier openings and sales. In fact, some retail experts question how much further Black Friday will creep into Thanksgiving. Some now even refer to the holiday as Black Thanksgiving or Gray Thursday and question whether the earlier openings will make people shop more over the two days or simply push up sales from Black Friday.

“Black Friday is now Gray Friday,” said Craig Johnson, president of Customer Growth Partners, a retail consultancy.

The Thanksgiving openings took a bite out of Black Friday sales last year. Sales on turkey day were $810 million last year, an increase of 55 percent from the previous year, according to Chicago research firm ShopperTrak. But sales dropped 1.8 percent to $11.2 billion on Black Friday, though it still was the biggest shopping day last year.

This year, sales figures for Thanksgiving and Black Friday will trickle out in the next couple of days. Meanwhile, one thing is clear: Shoppers across the country were taking advantage of the deals on both days.

The Saturday after Thanksgiving is the biggest shopping day of the year for small retailers, according to the National Federation of Independent Business. According to its surveys, the majority of respondents said the shops offered gifts for people who are typically hard to shop for, and some found better prices.

Several shops in the Power & Light District plan to draw in customers Saturday with specials. The Garment District Boutique will offer complimentary mimosas from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and complimentary Boulevard Brewing Co. beer and live music from 2 to 5 p.m. MeMa’s Old-Fashioned Bakery will give out samples of hot cocoa and baked goods from noon to 6 p.m.

And the discounts and deals will continue through the season.

Ward Parkway Center in south Kansas City is giving away $2,000 in gift cards starting Saturday and running through mid-December. Legends Outlets Kansas City in Kansas City, Kan., is running a 12-day contest with more than $1,600 in prizes.

Retailers also are gearing up for Cyber Monday, the online shopping spree that occurs the Monday after Thanksgiving weekend.

According to an NPD Group survey, only about 12 percent of holiday shopping had been completed by Thanksgiving.

Craig and Joanna Whitney of Kansas City, Kan., were picking up paint for a bedroom in Westport on Friday morning. As for holiday shopping?

“We’ve done none. Zero,” she said. “We’ll probably wait until we don’t have enough time.”

Then Craig Whitney remembered.

“Wait, we bought my sister something on eBay,” he said.

That’s one purchase crossed off the list.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. To reach Joyce Smith, call 816-234-4692 or send email to jsmith@kcstar.com.

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