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Give Thanks, Go Shopping?

Black Friday starts earlier than ever today as bargain hunters head for the big box stores in Waterford

Are the days of sinking into a turkey coma after the traditional Thanksgiving meal numbered?  For people eager to get started with their holiday shopping and for those who work in retail, they may be.

This year, Black Friday is kicking off early as many stores are opening their doors on the stroke of midnight or, in some cases, even sooner.

For the first time, , Wal-Mart, and Ocean State Job Lot will be open for business on Thanksgiving and offering door buster deals this evening.  The deals at Toys R Us begin online at the retailer’s Web site, Toysrus.com, at 7 a.m. Thanksgiving Day, with the store in Waterford slated to open at 9 p.m. tonight with door busters on everything from Transformers to Hello Kitty electronics, bikes and swing sets for early birds.

Wal-Mart’s first sale kicks off with toys and more at 10 p.m., and Ocean State Job Lot will be open from 8 a.m. Thanksgiving morning and offering deals on everything from Christmas trees to fireplaces until 11 p.m., November 25.

Although Waterford’s will be closed on Thanksgiving Day, big box stores such as and , along with about 20 retailers at Crystal Mall including Zales, Old Navy, Abercrombie and Fitch, Hollister, Hot Topic, Aeropostale, Bed, Bath & Beyond, Victoria’s Secret, Game Stop, The Toy Vault, and New York and Co., have also decided to open at midnight for the first time tonight.

“We’ve never had so many stores open at midnight,” said Chris Bastien, director of marketing and business development at Crystal Mall. “Last year, did but they were the only one. Macy’s sort of led the way [this year] opening at midnight."

Bastien said he’s looking at a list of deals that is four pages long and many stores that are offering deep discounts. Both American Eagle and The Loft are offering 40 percent off everything on Black Friday; New York & Co. is offering 50 percent.

"Some of the smaller shops see it as an opportunity to reach those other shoppers. It really just provides opportunities for us and for our retailers to offer shopping at a different time," says Bastien. "I think the retailers are embracing it. That’s evident from the number of them opening at midnight.”

With so many deals to be had this year, Bastien said he expects the stores to be hopping well before the rest of the mall opens at 4 a.m., which is also an hour earlier than it did last year.

“I’ve been here at 4 and 5 a.m. and there are people waiting outside,” he said. “There are typically lines outside department stores waiting for them to open.”

Department stores such as Macy’s and and home improvement stores such as Home Depot and Lowes are having timed promotions with deals on everything from Craftsman tools to major household appliances. “Those are usually in high demand,” Bastien said. “That’s where the lines come from.”

For bargain hunters, there are on hot items, particularly in the electronics departments at Wal-Mart, Best Buy, and Target, where 32-inch high definition televisions are on sale for under $200 and laptop computers are going for $250 and $300.

is advertising the Asus Transformer 10.1 inch wi-fi table Android for $249.99, while Sears is offering the Android 2.2 for $179.99. Amazon Kindle Fires are selling at Wal-Mart for $199 and Target is offering Nikon digital cameras for $99.99 (which is half the usual price) and XBox game consoles are $139.99, for a savings of $60.  

While stores are eager to start the day early, with the idea of skipping out to the store on a holiday and it’s tough on those who work in retail too. Though some store employees say they’re happy to volunteer for the extra hours of holiday pay, others say they had no choice in the matter and aren’t looking forward to having to sleep through the holiday meal rather than napping after it to be ready for work at midnight.  

Anthony Hardwick, a Target employee in Ohama, Nebraska, decided to protest by launching a petition against the store’s midnight opening on Change.org. The petition, which has been signed by 197,982 people and counting, inspired about 50 similar petitions against other retailers including Macy’s, Best Buy, Wal-Mart, and Kohl’s signed by people who would rather see everyone be home for the holidays.

Still, times are tight and stores depend on holiday sales as much as their customers do, many of whom have come to rely on door busters to help them find items on everyone’s wish list. Last year, 22 million people went shopping on Black Friday. It's not for nothing that the day got its name; it helps put many retailers “in the black” for the year.

"The decision to open at midnight on Black Friday was not one we took lightly," said Anahita Cameron, a Target director of stores human resources, in a press statement released in response to the petition. "As that is the busiest shopping day of the year, it is imperative that we be competitive. Our guests have expressed that they would prefer to kick off their holiday shopping by heading out after their holiday celebrations rather than getting up in the middle of the night."

Although many retailers expect the midnight openings to appeal to younger shoppers, there are many people locally for whom a midnight opening might be preferable because they work second or third shift.

“Our retailers certainly know who their shopper is and know how to reach them, whether it’s a personal shopping preferences or their actual schedule," says Bastien. "This might fit right into someone’s schedule if they’re working third shift.”  

For those early birds,then, there are plenty of worms to be had this year. If, however, you’d rather wait until you’ve fully digested one holiday before launching yourself into the next, many stores are offering sales right through Cyber Monday.

If Black Friday is part of your holiday tradition, though, a trip to Crystal Mall might just get you into the spirit of the season. The mall has set up gift wrapping stations to benefit local charities and will host dancers from Connecticut Ballet, who will be performing selections from the Nutcracker all over Crystal Mall starting at 10 a.m.

The first 50 people entering Crystal Mall will be rewarded with shopping survival kits that include snacks, beverages, pens, pads, and envelopes for receipts. There will be balloon animals for kids and the star of the day will be Santa, who will be checking off lists and posing for pictures from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m.

“It’s a fun time of year and the mall has a lot going on,” said Bastien. “Black Friday is the traditional kickoff of the holiday season. The holiday makes it just that much more exciting.”

Thomas Cornick November 24, 2011 at 02:18 PM
The Grinch who stole Thanksgiving, a celebration of corporate greed.
Cody Jenkins November 24, 2011 at 05:58 PM
There are much easier ways if you shop online and you can find better deals.If you google 2011christmasgiftguide.weebly you can find really good deals without the crowds,along with other sites.

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