Will Black Friday on Thanksgiving night become the new normal?

11/23/2012 4:33 AM

11/23/2012 11:23 AM

Amanda Humphreys is no Black Friday rookie -- she once camped for 30 hours outside a Best Buy. But she had mixed feelings when retailers broke tradition by swinging open their doors on Thanksgiving evening.

For one thing, she had to leave her house so early Thursday that she probably won't get her first bite of turkey until today.

But it paid off: She was first in line outside a Target near North East Mall, waiting to get her hands on a $199 Xbox 360 for her boyfriend's son when the store opened at 9 p.m. She got there at 1 p.m. to earn the prime spot.

"I got begged," she said, laughing about the pressure from relatives. "You have to do this if you want a really good deal. I kind of still wish it was still midnight."

Thanksgiving is starting to look more and more like the new Black Friday as retailers gradually move up their holiday sales rush. It seems like long ago when shoppers eagerly stood in line overnight until the stores opened at 6 a.m. Friday.

But 6 a.m. eventually became 4 a.m. Then 2 a.m. Then midnight.

This year, Wal-Mart, Toys R Us and Sears were among those that started their sales at 8 p.m.

Those standing in line said that to accommodate the time change, they either ate early or enjoyed their Thanksgiving feasts on the sidewalk. Mike Phan, 24, of Fort Worth said his sister was dropping off a plate of turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes.

Phan said his plans to camp out at Sears with friends got off to a rough start Wednesday when they arrived at 9 p.m. with a couple of tents. They immediately encountered a security guard who told them that they couldn't camp there.

"We almost went crazy," he said. "I've been following all the ads on the Internet for two weeks now, and we'd been planning on it."

The guard called a supervisor, who said it was OK to stay if they didn't pitch the tents. By Thursday afternoon, the guys were sitting in folding chairs, drinking Dr Peppers and blocking the wind with a large umbrella so they could play cards.

The deals on televisions were worth the unusual Thanksgiving, Phan said.

"They've got a 50-inch Toshiba for $300 and a 32-inch for $98," he said. "It's a bargain."

'The new normal'?

The earlier sales times feel more like a permanent change than a passing fad, said Elten Briggs, associate professor in the marketing department at the University of Texas at Arlington.

"I tend to think it is more the new normal," he said. "It's kind of like airline bag fees. When the first airline started it, there was a little uncertainty about it. Then you get used to them and realize this is going to be a new way of life."

As long as the change gets results, more businesses will follow suit. Last year, ShopperTrak reported shortly after Black Friday that shoppers spent $11.4 billion and that retail sales jumped 7 percent over 2010.

It was the biggest year-over-year increase since 2007, the report found.

The changes have caused some backlash. Critics complain that Thursday openings require employees to work rather than spend time with their families and may allow the spectacle of Black Friday to overwhelm the holiday.

"But unless you start to see one or more of the big retailers start to pull back a little bit, then we probably won't see things revert back to normal," Briggs said.

Not all the Thanksgiving Day shopping is new. Bass Pro Shops have opened at 8 a.m. Thanksgiving Day for 40 years, making shopping for outdoor gear a tradition for many families.

Family time

Just because people were shopping doesn't mean they weren't spending time with family. At Alliance Town Center, Andres Duran and his stepson Gianmarco Gonzalez, 13, were first in line outside Best Buy, where they hoped to buy all the family's Christmas presents in one trip.

But it took a family effort to stay there.

Since they arrived at 10 p.m. Tuesday, Duran and Gonzalez traded off their spots with relatives, including Gonzalez's mother and his 18-year-old brother. Gonzalez said his mother was at home preparing the Thanksgiving meal and would bring it to Best Buy.

"We're just going to have it here," Duran said. "Turkey and the trimmings -- first time we've had it outside Best Buy."

Also in line, Jonathan Belter, 21, of Keller said this was his eighth year to stand in line for Black Friday.

"So this is kind of our Thanksgiving family," he said. "I'm getting used to having Thanksgiving out here."

Belter said he got to Best Buy at 11 p.m. Wednesday and was expected at his own job helping Black Friday shoppers at a mall store at 4 a.m. today.

"I'm probably going to be tired," he said.

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