AlliedNews.com - Grove City, Pennsylvania

December 6, 2013

Early birds flock to holiday sales

By Michael Roknick/Herald Business Editor and The Associated Press
Allied News

MERCER COUNTY AREA — Black Friday shopping began Thursday.

More retailers than ever opened their doors on Turkey Day this year as a way to entice shoppers to buy, buy, buy. What’s more, a number of retailers had flashy sales last week as the start of holiday season sales.

Just what’s going on here?

For generations Black Friday, so named because it put many retailers in the black for annual profits, was long considered the official kickoff to holiday shopping. The day after Thanksgiving was considered a good choice because it allowed shoppers, and store employees, a day of rest on Thanksgiving day before the onslaught began.

Turns out the shoppers were restless.

Initially retailers opened an hour or two early on Black Friday, typically around 8 a.m. to generate excitement about sales. Then about 15 years ago the clock got pushed back earlier and earlier with larger department stores opening their doors at 6 a.m., then it became 4 a.m. and in some cases even earlier.

More than a decade ago Kmart was among the first retailers to open their door on Thanksgiving day to allow consumers first crack at sales items.

Then shopping centers such as Grove City Premium Outlets pushed it even further when in 2006 stores at the Springfield Township mall opened at the strike of midnight, the last official second of Thanksgiving day. Promoted as a “midnight madness’’ sale the event lived up to its billing as traffic backed up for 10 miles on Interstate 79 and seven miles on I-80.

With such an enormous success there was no turning back.

Target and Toys R Us began pushing their opening time into late Thanksgiving night.

This year for the first time Macy’s, J.C.Penney and Staples are opening their doors Thanksgiving day along with Kohl’s. The Gap, which operates Old Navy, Gap and Banana Republic,  opened half its stores Thanksgiving morning.

Social media sites such as Facebook were filled with people pleading with others not to shop on Thanksgiving and to stay home with their loved ones. But, at least in the past, people have voted with their pocketbooks and have gone out in legions to retailers opening at almost any hour over the next several days.

A few retailers, a very brave few, have steadfastly said they will not open this Thanksgiving such as Jo Ann Fabric, which has a Hermitage store.

Grove City Premium Outlets reported 81 stores were to open at 8 p.m. Thanksgiving with the remaining 49 stores to have staggered openings throughout the night and remain open all night. The outlet center closed at 10 p.m. Friday. 

The holiday openings came despite threatened protests from workers’ rights groups, which are opposed to employees working on the holiday instead of spending the day with family.

Overall, the National Retail Federation expects retail sales to be up 4 percent to $602 billion during the last two months of the year. That’s higher than last year’s 3.5 percent growth, but below the 6 percent pace seen before the recession.

Analysts expect sales to be generated at the expense of profits, as retailers will likely have to do more discounting to get people into stores.

Here’s how the start of the holiday shopping season was playing out nationwide:

ä Las Vegas police say a shopper carrying a big-screen TV home from a Target on Thanksgiving was shot by a thief. Police Lt. David Gordon says the victim was carrying the TV at an apartment complex near the University of Nevada, Las Vegas when someone fired warning shots, prompting him to drop the appliance. Gordon says the robber snatched the TV and took it to a vehicle, and the victim tried to wrestle it back. That’s when the robber fired shots and hit the victim in the leg. It’s unclear what happened to the TV.

Police in Utah say at least two people were knocked to the ground by a crowd of Wal-Mart shoppers jockeying for a $49 tablet computer. Police say store employees brought out a pallet of items wrapped in cellophane, and about 200 people rushed forward to grab the items as the workers cut the wrapper.

ä Friday, 11 a.m.: Mindy Snow of Chicago stopped by Target in Niles, Ill., with a notebook in hand. She was doing her best to stick to her list, which included clothes for her teenage daughter and wine glasses for her sister.

“I’m trying to remain disciplined but it’s tough,” she said. “So many cute things I keep seeing for myself.”

Snow, 33, is an accountant and a single mom. She said she plans to spend about $500 on gifts this year — a little more than last year — but admitted it will be tough to keep to that.

ä Friday, 10:50 a.m.: One shopper asks, what deal? Michael Feinman said he was surprised at the lack of deals overall. He thought it would have been more aggressive.

Feinman ought to know what makes a good deal. He works in merchandising for Bloomingdale’s. At a mall in Shorts Hills, N.J., Feinman suspects that the timing of the start of Hanukkah — coinciding with Thanksgiving this year — meant retailers knew people would spend. So he expects deals to get better, particularly in the two weeks before Christmas.

ä Friday, 10:40 a.m.: Toys R Us executive reports “nice crowds around the country.”

“It was very steady overall, good crowds, lots of families shopping together,” Toys R Us’ chief merchandising operator, Richard Barry, said in an interview. “People are using it as an entertainment, having some fun and getting great deals in the holiday spirit.”

Crowds were largest when the stores opened at 5 p.m. Thursday, then were quieter from 3 a.m. to 5 a.m. Another spike came at 5 a.m. as more deals kicked off.

He said popular items included classic toys, such as a 55-piece train table set that was half off at $40. Also selling well were Lego sets, a Thomas the Tank Engine board game and Nerf’s Rebel bow-and-arrow set. People were also buying the children’s video games “Skylanders” and “Disney Infinity.”

Barry said people responded well to the stores’ 5 p.m. opening, three hours earlier than last year.

“People liked the fact they could shop at a more humane hour and didn’t have to get up in the middle of the night, and could spend time with family,” he said. “Overall our whole strategy is to give customers what they want, how they want and when they want.”

ä Friday, 10:25 a.m.: A father faces felony child neglect charges after a Florida Highway Patrol trooper spotted a baby left alone in a car outside a Best Buy store. The incident happened about 5:30 p.m. Thursday near Orlando.

Authorities say trooper Edy Rivera saw the infant in a car seat inside a locked car. He went into the store, looking for the vehicle’s owner. When no one came forward, he broke the vehicle’s window and got the baby boy out.

A short time later, officials say 34-year-old Haider Darwash returned to the vehicle. He told troopers he thought his wife had the baby. She was located standing in line at another business in the shopping center. The child was not harmed.

ä Friday, 10 a.m.: Macy’s says about 15,000 people waited in line for the opening of its flagship store in New York at 8 p.m. Thursday. That compares with the 11,000 people last year, when the store opened at midnight. “It’s unbelievable,” CEO Terry Lundgren said in an interview Friday morning. “Clearly people are in the shopping mood.”

In terms of hot items, workout gear and women’s shoes were “off the charts successful,” Lundgren said. Because of the chilly weather, boots and sweaters were popular, too.

ä Friday, 9:30 a.m.: Vinnie Gopalakrishnan saw footage on TV of people shopping on Thanksgiving Day and thought they were all crazy.

But then Gopalakrishnan’s cousin told him about a 70-inch flat-screen TV on sale at Wal-Mart for about $1,000 — a savings of about $600. Gopalakrishnan got in his car for his first Black Friday outing.

“I’m not even Christmas shopping,” he said. The TV “is just for me.”

The store was much quieter than the night before, when workers had set up metal barricades outside to keep people in an orderly line. By Friday morning, workers were dismantling the barricades and checkout operators were standing by their registers, waiting for customers. As he waited at a store in Niles, Ill., Gopalakrishnan thought his odds were good, but knew there was no sure thing. “There’s blood in the water,” said Gopalakrishnan, a 34-year-old restaurant manager from the Chicago suburb of Bolingbrook.

ä Friday, 9:15 a.m.: Police officer suffers broken wrist breaking up fight

Authorities say a police officer suffered a broken wrist as he broke up a brawl between two men waiting in line for Black Friday shopping deals at a Southern California Wal-Mart store.

The San Bernardino Sun says the fight occurred about 7 p.m. Thanksgiving night when store managers decided to open the doors early to accommodate more than 3,000 waiting people. The doors were originally scheduled to open at 8 p.m.

Police say there were three fights at the store in Rialto. Two of them were inside over merchandise; the third was outside, when the officer got injured.

ä Friday, 9:05 a.m.: Jill Teal said she does most of her shopping online, but she was out at Kohl’s department store in Clifton Park with her sister, Judy Espey. Their shopping trip started at 4 a.m.

Espey, the mother of three children ages 12 to 16, said her purchases included the Beats line of headphones and speakers.

She actually began her shopping Thursday night, when she ducked out after having dinner with her family to buy a 50-inch flat-screen television at Wal-Mart for $288. But said she’s not thrilled that stores now open on Thanksgiving, believing that it takes away from the fun of shopping with friends on Black Friday.

“I don’t really dig the Thanksgiving night thing. I feel bad for the workers,” Espey said. “They’ve ruined Black Friday.”

ä Friday, 8:50 a.m.: Crowds waiting for vouchers for a deal on televisions walked away empty-handed after an in-stock guarantee fell through at a Wal-Mart store near Tampa, Fla.

Wal-Mart had promised that shoppers can get a voucher to buy the product later if a store is sold out, as long as the shopper is inside the store within one hour of a doorbuster sales event. At the store in Lutz, Fla., that meant either a television or a voucher for anyone in line before 7 p.m. Thursday. Customers told Bay News 9 that by 7:15 p.m., they were told that all the televisions — and vouchers — were gone.

Pasco County Sheriff’s deputies who were already working at the store were asked for assistance. The crowd didn’t get unruly, but customers told the television station they were upset. Wal-Mart spokeswoman Danit Marquardt said the company is looking into the situation.

How to make sure you’re getting the best deals? Go to http://bigstory.ap.org/article/review-5-shopping-apps-get-you-best-prices

Read more at: http://bit.ly/1dFeqiA

———

— Friday, 8:35 a.m.: No fistfights, but store out of Furby

The atmosphere was calm at the stores Judy Phillips and Bonnie Dow had hit Friday morning. Their annual Black Friday trek began Thanksgiving night at a mall in Wilton, a town north of Albany, N.Y. They eventually made it to Target in nearby Clifton Park.

“No one’s been fistfighting with anybody,” Dow said.

Phillips said they got “great deals” on such items as blankets, sheets and comforters, but her efforts to buy the popular Furby toy had come up empty.

“They’re all sold out,” she said.

— Chris Carola, Associated Press, Clifton Park, N.Y.

———

— Friday, 8:15 a.m.: Two trips shopping for Chicago woman

Dana and Estevan Branscum of Chicago were stopping by a Target in the Chicago suburb of Niles to look for “little things” like movies.

“I never shop for big ticket items on Black Friday because I know I won’t get them,” said Dana Branscum, a 27-year-old grocery store manager.

The Friday morning visit was her second time at the store in less than 10 hours.

She and her mom headed out Thursday evening to do a full circuit of shopping: Kohl’s, Target, J.C. Penney and Michael’s craft store. She said it was much busier Thursday night than on Friday morning, but it also seemed more civilized than usual.

“I’ve been doing Black Friday for a couple years. It seemed very organized,” she said. There even were still a few televisions left at Target when she and her mom arrived around 8:30 p.m. CST, a half-hour after the store opened. At that time, the lines for the checkout stretched about 20 feet into the nearby health and beauty department, she said.

Friday morning was considerably quieter, with no lines at the checkout and plenty of parking spots right out front at about around 6 a.m. CST.

“Everybody is sleeping now I think,” said Estevan Branscum, a 24-year-old executive chef.

The Branscums plan to spend $800 to $1,000 this holiday season. They say if they had kids, they’d be spending much more.

Their big-ticket items this year — already purchased a week ago — were a TV for Estevan and a Coach purse for Dana.

They also stopped by Home Depot to buy a new Christmas tree.

— Sara Burnett, Associated Press, Niles, Ill.

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— Friday, 7:45 a.m.: How to make sure you’re getting the best deals? AP’s Joseph Pisani writes about five shopping apps to bring with you.

Many retailers, for instance, will match deals you find elsewhere. These apps can help you find better prices to show the cashier. Some let you search for coupons, while others tell you whether you’re better off buying online instead. And one keeps track of all those promotional fliers that do little good if you forget them at home.

Unfortunately, If you prefer to shop at mom and pop stores, you won’t find any deals here. But if you don’t mind big retailers, these apps offer a hefty selection of deals from them. These are all free, easy to use and beautifully designed:

— RetailMeNot (available for Android, iPhone): This app lets you search for coupons from your favorite stores, so you can instantly save 10 percent, 20 percent or even more on a single item or your entire shopping cart. You can scroll through the list of hot deals on the home page or search for a specific store.

— Amazon and RedLaser (available for Android, iPhone, Windows): These two apps let you check prices online, for those retailers that will match cheaper prices you find in hopes you’ll buy on the spot.

— Cartwheel by Target (available for Android, iPhone): Target’s app has coupons for everything from electronics to toys to cereal. Once you find a coupon you want to use, you tap the add button. Then present the cashier with a single barcode that has collected all the coupons you selected.

— Flipp (available for iPhone): This app helps you find and track newspaper circulars. You can leave the paper behind, as Flipp has digital versions with the coupons in them.

Read more at:

http://bigstory.ap.org/article/review-5-shopping-apps-get-you-best-prices

— Joseph Pisani, AP Business Writer, New York

— Friday, 6:50 a.m.: Two hurt as police respond to shoplifting call

Authorities say a police officer answering a call of alleged shoplifting at a Chicago area department store shot the driver of a car that was dragging a fellow officer.

The wounded driver of the car and the dragged officer were both taken for hospital treatment of non-life-threatening shoulder injuries, police say. Three people were arrested.

Mark Turvey, police chief in Romeoville, Ill., said police got a call shortly after 10 p.m. Thursday of two people allegedly shoplifting clothes from a Kohl’s store in the southwest Chicago suburb.

“As officers approached the front door, one of the two subjects ran out the door into the parking lot” and the officer chased him to a waiting car, Turvey said.

“The officer was struggling with the subject as he got into the car and then the car started to move as the officer was partially inside the car. The officer was dragged quite some distance. He couldn’t get out,” Turvey said.

The police chief said a backup officer fired two or three shots toward the driver when he refused orders to stop, striking him once in the shoulder.

There were no reports of any injuries to shoppers hunting for deals ahead of Black Friday.

A store manager contacted early Friday said he had no further information and referred The Associated Press to a corporate spokeswoman, who didn’t immediately return a message Friday.

———

Friday, 6:30 a.m.: Tech gadgets among best-sellers at Wal-Mart

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. said that best sellers for its Thanksgiving sale included big-screen TVs, Apple’s iPad Minis, laptops, Microsoft’s Xbox One, Sony’s PlayStation 4 and the game “Call of Duty: Ghosts.”

The world’s largest retailer said that customers also bought 2.8 million towels, 300,000 bicycles and 1.9 million dolls.

Wal-Mart started its deals at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving, two hours earlier than last year. The retailer said 1 million customers took advantage of its one-hour guarantee program, which allows shoppers who are inside a Wal-Mart store within one hour of a doorbuster sales event to buy that product and either take it home that day or by Christmas. That program started a year ago with three items and was expanded to 21 this year.

For the first time this year, customers were offered wristbands for popular products, allowing them to shop while they waited for deals.

— Anne D’Innocenzio, AP Retail Writer, New York

———

— Friday, 5:45 a.m.: Don’t think big store chains are conceding to Amazon. AP’s Mae Anderson and Anne D’Innocenzio take a look.

Amazon has managed to attract customers from big store chains such as Wal-Mart and Best Buy with low prices and convenient shipping. Now, stores are fighting to get customers back.

Stores are doing such things as matching the lower prices on Amazon and offering the same discounts in stores as on their websites. For its part, Amazon.com Inc. is giving customers the option to pick up items at physical locations and adding Sunday delivery.

There’s a lot at stake for both sides. Amazon has built a following, but wants to grow its business around the world. Meanwhile, brick-and-mortar retailers struggle to keep shoppers from using their stores as showrooms to test out and try on items before buying them for less on Amazon.

The holiday season ups the ante. Both online and brick-and-mortar retailers can make up to 40 percent of their annual revenue in November and December. And this year, they’re competing for the growing number of shoppers who are as comfortable buying online as in stores.

Read more at:

http://bigstory.ap.org/article/brick-and-mortar-stores-and-amazon-go-head-head

— Mae Anderson and Anne D’Innocenzio, AP Retail Writers, New York

———

— Thursday, 11 p.m.:  J. C. Penney’s store in Manhattan was busy with bargain shoppers buying discounted sweaters, bed sheets and luggage, but the store was not packed.  Among the doorbuster deals were 50 percent off on all fashion silver jewelry.  The struggling department needs a solid holiday shopping season to help recover from a botched up transformation plan.

The company has brought back sales events and basic merchandise like khakis in forgiving fits. To kick off the holiday shopping season, Penney opened at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving.  That was much earlier than the 6 a.m. opening on Black Friday a year ago.

Tamara Robinson, 37, from Brooklyn, said she has been buying more at Penney in the last few months. Robinson was throwing bed sheets and comforters into her cart at Penney and planned to spend about $200 at the department store on Thursday.  She then planned to go to Macy’s and Best Buy. 

“I am going to shop all night,” she said.

———

— Thursday, 8 p.m.: Crowds of cheering shoppers pushed through the doors at the flagship Macy’s Herald Square in New York City when it opened.

About 15,000 shoppers were at Macy’s right before the doors opened, estimated Terry Lundgren, CEO, president and chairman of the department store chain. Last year, the store had 11,000 people right before the midnight opening. 

Lundgren, who was at the entrance, told The Associated Press that the retailer knew it had to open when it found out other competitors were planning to open on Thanksgiving night. He also said it received positive feedback from its employees.  “We’re a competitive group,” he said. “It’s very clear they (the shoppers) want to be here at 8 p.m.”

The store was featuring 375 doorbusters, up from last year’s 200. Some of the deals included $79.99 jackets  originally priced from $195 to $250, and cashmere sweaters for $39, marked down from 129.

Shelby Wheatley, 17, was with her mother, her mother’s friend and her best friend, who all traveled from Orlando, Fla.  Wheatley was looking for a prom dress and wanted to buy it in New York. 

“I did Black Friday — but never Thursday — and never in New York,” she said. 

As for Thanksgiving, the group celebrated early with family last week. 

“We just had dinner at TJI Fridays,” she added.

— Anne D’Innocenzio, Retail Writer, New York

———

—Thursday, just before 8 p.m.: At Macy’s in the Manhattan borough of New York City, bargain shoppers were grabbing discounted coats, perfume and handbags. It was mayhem in the shoe department with shoppers pushing and shoving each other to grab boxes of cold weather boots, discounted by 50 percent, that were stacked high on tables. One item catching people’s attention:  Bearpaw boots that resembled Uggs. They were priced at $34. 

“This is my first Black Friday, and I don’t particularly like it,” said Tammy Oliver, 45, who had a box of Bearpaw boots under her arm, a gift for herself.  “But I did get some good deals.”

Denise Anderson, 49, along with her husband and 16-year-old daughter, were visiting Manhattan from Fayetteville, Ark. They arrived in Manhattan on Saturday and had spent $3,000 to $4,000 on themselves. She has done Black Friday shopping back at home but wanted to do it in New York.

“We’re people watching,” she said. “We wanted to see the craziness.”

— Anne D’Innocenzio, Retail Writer, New York

———

— Thursday, 6 p.m.: An hour after its 6 p.m. opening, Best Buy at Union Square in New York City was bustling, with big TVs, Kindle e-book readers and laptops being popular purchases. Buying a TV on sale seemed to be most people’s priority.

“My friend is chewing me out right now for not being there,” said Rodney Bernard, 39, a writer in the Bronx. Instead of being at his friend’s Thanksgiving celebration, he was at Best Buy. “But I really needed a TV.”

He saw a deal in the paper for an Insignia 39-inch TV for $169, but ended up buying a more expensive 40-inch Samsung TV after a store salesman said he could get $20 off if he applied for a Best Buy credit card. He got the TV for $399 and it was originally $700 or $800.

Meanwhile, his friend doesn’t approve of shopping on Thanksgiving. “He’s upset with myself right now. He feels offended and is like don’t even come by.”

Bernard agrees but thinks it’s OK to shop if you really need something.

Fortunately he says, his parents and immediate family are celebrating Thanksgiving on the 30th because several people had to work today.

“It’s not like I lost something, I’ll be celebrating.”

— Mae Anderson, Retail Writer, New York

———

—Thursday, 5:41 p.m.: A Kmart store in the Manhattan borough of New York City was packed with people shopping for clothing and holiday decor items. The discounter, whose parent is Sears Holdings Corp., opened at 6 a.m. and planned to stay open for 41 hours straight.  Clothing was marked down from 30 percent to 50 percent. 

Adriana Tavaraz, 51, from the Bronx, who had just finished work at a travel agency at around 4 p.m., spent $105 on ornaments, Santa hats and other holiday decor for herself and her family at Kmart. She saved about 50 percent. But Tavarez said her holiday budget was tight because she was grappling with higher costs like food and monthly rent, which rose $100 to $1,700 this year.

“I struggle a lot,” said Tavaraz, who started saving for holiday presents in June and planned to spend a total of $200 for holiday presents. “Nowadays, you have to think about what you spend. You have to think about tomorrow.”

As for celebrating Thanksgiving, she planned to have her family over for dinner at 8 p.m.

“Everything is ready,” she said.

—Anne D’Innocenzio, Retail Writer, New York

———

— Thursday, 4:30 p.m.:  At Best Buy in New York City, 70 people are in line before the 6 p.m. opening. A popular deal was the Microsoft Windows Surface tablet on sale at $199 from $350.

Jamal Afridi, 35, a truck driver from Utah but living temporarily in New York, was in line to buy a 39-inch TV for $160 from $299. He tried to buy it online but it was sold out.

“I checked over the last two days, I wouldn’t have come out otherwise,” he said. He was also interested in the Surface tablet deal, though. “This was the best deal if the year,” he said.

He doesn’t mind earlier hours on Thanksgiving. “I don’t have to get up early in the morning,” he said. “Who cares it’s just another day, I’ll eat later.”

— Mae Anderson, Retail Writer, New York

———

— Thursday afternoon: Pizza Hut has offered to rehire the manager of a northern Indiana restaurant who was fired over his refusal to open up on Thanksgiving Day.

Tony Rohr said he has worked at the Elkhart restaurant since starting as a cook more than 10 years but was told to write a letter of resignation after his refusal. He said he declined in a meeting with his boss and instead wrote a letter explaining that he believed the company should care more about its employees.

“I said, ‘Why can’t we be the company that stands up and says we care about our employees and they can have the day off?”’ Rohr told WSBT-TV (http://bit.ly/1bZovDT ) of South Bend, Ind.

Rohr said he was thinking about the other workers at the restaurant.

“Thanksgiving and Christmas are the only two days that they’re closed in the whole year, and they’re the only two days that those people are guaranteed to have off and spend it with their families,” he said.

Plano, Texas-based Pizza Hut issued a statement Wednesday saying it respects an employee’s right to not work on the holiday and that the store owner has agreed to reinstate Rohr.

— Associated Press

Published Nov. 30, 2013, in Allied News. Pick up a copy at 201 A Erie St., Grove City.