More stores open on Thanksgiving this year but few shoppers take notice

Black Friday Insight My Thoughts Exactly by Annette Kniola

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— Their family thinks they are crazy, but that hasn’t stopped Bobbi Jo Toussaint and Jackie Kelly from carrying out their Thanksgiving tradition.

Instead of napping after their Thanksgiving lunch, the mother-daughter team hits the shops.

Toussaint and Kelly were among the thousands of people nationwide who spent a portion of their holiday hitting sales racks.

“We do this every year,” Toussaint said.

After a year of cautious spending and worry over an uncertain economy and high unemployment, more stores opted to stay open on Thanksgiving Day. But if store managers were expecting Black Friday-like crowds, they were likely disappointed based on the turnout in Southwest Florida on Thursday afternoon.

Walmart, which has traditionally closed on Thanksgiving Day to prepare for crowds of shoppers on Black Friday, was among the stores that opened Thursday. Though the parking lot at the North Naples Walmart, 2250 Immokalee Road, was far from full, dozens of shoppers roamed the store, picking up early gifts or last minute items for their Thanksgiving meal.

Sean Nicklos said he was surprised to find the store open when he pulled into the parking lot Thursday afternoon. Nicklos was visiting his brother from Cleveland and swung by the store to pick up a surprise gift for his brother.

The gift? A microwave to replace the decades-old one his brother had inherited.

Nicklos just happened upon an open store, but experienced shoppers like Toussaint and Kelly had a game plan. They pair planned to hit as many stores as possible Thursday afternoon — even going from one Kmart to the next to find which have the most stuff mentioned in the circular in order to get a jump on Black Friday shopping. The pair planned to head to Toys R Us when it opened at 10 p.m.

From there, Kelly said they’d spend the night hitting stores as they opened — some stores at the Miromar Outlets were scheduled to begin opening around 9 p.m. Thursday — before heading back to Walmart at 5 a.m. to get a Christmas present they just had to have.

Their schedule may sound crazy, but Kelly said in all the years they’ve been doing this, they have always purchased the gifts they wanted.

“We wait in lines and we do what ever we have to do,” Kelly said. “We do this every year. Last year, there was nothing I wanted, but I went out anyway.”

The pair picked up a couple of pairs of blue jeans at Kmart, 4383 U.S. 41 N., before heading to the next store.

While crowds appeared relatively light compared with the weekend ahead, the extended hours drew in overseas visitors, those who have to work Friday and some who couldn’t resist a good deal.

Ruth Jason fell into the latter category. She saw an advertisement for a couple of things she needed for her home, and said she decided to stop at Kmart Thursday to take advantage of the sale.

Jason said the store wasn’t busy when she popped in Thursday afternoon, but was “sure it was busy earlier” that day.

Stores weren’t the only places that were offering specials for shoppers Thursday. A similar promotional blitz greeted online shoppers.

Last year, consumers spent about $300 million online on Thanksgiving, compared with $887 million on Cyber Monday, according to comScore.

According to Akamai Technologies, which tracks traffic to 270 retail sites, traffic peaked at 11 a.m. and was up about 14 percent from Wednesday.

Early data from Coremetrics, an IBM company, from early afternoon showed that online Thanksgiving Day sales were up about 10 percent over Thanksgiving a year ago.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

© 2010 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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