Shoppers gobble up deals on ‘Gray Thursday’

By Julia Livesey
Correspondent

Consumers skip Thanksgiving dinner to get to the Black Friday deals early. (AP photo)

This year, Thanksgiving dished out dinner — with a side of deals.

Each year, retailers push Black Friday, the busiest and biggest shopping day of the year, further and further into Thanksgiving day with stores opening as early as 5 p.m. on the holiday. Retailers rivaled to be the first place shoppers opened their wallets on the kickoff of the shopping season as people scrounged to get the retail version of Willy Wonka’s precious golden ticket.

With some calling it “Gray Thursday,” retailers opened stores long before the onset of Black Friday — even before the turkeys got cold.

Walmart, which has been open on Thanksgiving since 1988, offered Black Friday deals that started at 6 p.m., and most Walmart stores were open 24 hours on Thursday.

Major department stores such as Macy’s and JCPenney, along with Target, which opened an hour earlier than last year, opened their doors at 8 p.m.

American Eagle stores also opened at 8 p.m. and offered customers a free bag to those who spent more than $60. Old Navy was open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Thanksgiving and some stores reopened at 7 p.m., the rest at midnight. Toys “R” Us was one of few stores that opened at 5 p.m. on Thanksgiving.

However, some major retail stores such as Nordstrom and Home Depot restrained from opening on Thanksgiving Day and opened at midnight.

Freshman history and secondary education double major Grace Hostetter was one of many people shopping right after Thanksgiving dinner. Hostetter, along with an endless line of people, stood outside of J.Crew at 9:30 p.m. waiting for the store to open at 10 p.m.

J.Crew, Old Navy and Gap offered 50 percent off the entire store, but those sales came with a price — missing out on family time.

“I hate that stores are opening so much earlier because I missed spending quality time with my family because I had to leave so early,” Hostetter said. “But that’s what you have to do to get the best deals.”

In 2009, retailers tested opening stores on Thanksgiving Day, but according to the National Retail Foundation, only 3 percent of people who shopped on Black Friday weekend made purchases on Thanksgiving. However, last year that number drastically jumped to 28 percent.

According to the National Retail Foundation, retailers began advertising deals in early October — about 50 percent of shoppers had already started their holiday shopping.

Change.org, an online petition service, sparked an initiative that encouraged people to shy away from shopping on the Thanksgiving holiday. Unfortunately, many shoppers continued to line up at stores while most families were still enjoying the last bite of apple pie.

Freshman special education major Kerry Farnum refused to give in to the shopping madness and waited until 9 a.m. on Black Friday to start her shopping. She said that people should be spending time with their families and stores shouldn’t open until midnight at the earliest.

“I started my shopping when most people were finishing theirs, but I still got good deals at stores that I wasn’t expecting to have sales,” Farnum said. “There are lots of sales everywhere, and people are excited to get their shopping done, so they’re willing to fight for deals.”

School of Business Dean William Keep said that because Thanksgiving was so late in the season, there are fewer shopping days in between Thanksgiving and Christmas. As a result, retailers are pushing consumers to make purchases earlier in the season.

“Retailers who have truly unique products have less incentive to discount and less incentive to push for shopping on Thursday,” Keep said. “Retailers who sell brands and items found in many stores want to get a jump on their competitors.”

The increase in consumer shopping and spending on Thanksgiving is proving to be slightly detrimental on Black Friday sales. Profits are starting to dissipate as a result of people shopping on Thanksgiving Day rather than Black Friday itself.

According to ShopperTrak, a research firm, Black Friday sales in 2012 dropped 1.8 percent from 2011, the first decrease since the 2008 recession.

Whether people are shopping on Thanksgiving Day or Black Friday, people will continue to shop and spend money one way or another.

However, most shoppers are so caught up in the shopping frenzy that they fail to realize that the sales and discounts aren’t as good as they think.

The weekend is comprised of misleading promotions, such as deceptive discounts claiming to drastically reduce “original” prices that are actually marked up to make it seem like shoppers will be saving more.

NerdWallet, a financial advice website, said that 90 percent of Black Friday promotions and deals in 2012 were exactly the same as those offered the previous year.

Most shoppers are targets for marketing ploys because they have a fear of missing out and don’t want to leave a store empty-handed.

Keep also believes that if all consumers do is come in and buy one particular sale item, the retailer will not be happy. The retailer wants the shopper to spend time in the store and buy other things.

Hostetter also said that she did not go shopping with anything particular in mind, but was glad to find different items she liked for 50 percent off.

“I loved being able to cut all the price tags in half,” Hostetter said. “It gives people who don’t have as much money an opportunity to shop at expensive stores or for expensive products.”

Many consumers value this wild weekend and will do almost anything to get a great deal — even if that means carving out time for shopping right after carving the turkey.