Thanksgiving sales steal shoppers from Black Friday

Shoppers walk through the Dayton Mall early in the morning on Black Friday. The mall opened its doors at 6 a.m. KARA DRISCOLL/STAFF

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Shoppers walk through the Dayton Mall early in the morning on Black Friday. The mall opened its doors at 6 a.m. KARA DRISCOLL/STAFF

Black Friday seemed to take a backseat to the swarm of shoppers who stormed area stores Thanksgiving night to get the best deals of the holiday shopping season.

A line of shoppers stood near the doors of the Home Depot in Centerville on Black Friday, awaiting the store’s opening at 6 a.m. Leslie Leis, a resident of Kettering, came out to buy tools for her son.

“This is the first time I’ve done this,” Leis said. “I went to Walmart last night. That was scary.”

Many shoppers throughout the region said they noticed a stark contrast between the crowds on Thanksgiving and later on Black Friday. Large crowds flocked to stores that opened on Thursday night, while lines were smaller and more manageable as Friday progressed.

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Holiday sales nationwide are expected to exceed $655 billion this year, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF), and experts say Black Friday will still remain the busiest shopping day of the season. A survey from the NRF found that 74 percent of consumers were expected to venture out on Friday this year.

Retailers like Walmart, JC Penney and Target ushered customers in on Thanksgiving night. In 2015, nearly 30 million people shopped on Thanksgiving — an increase from 2014 but down from the 45 million who shopped on the holiday in 2013.

Cole Guthrie and Jacob Kritner of Springfield drove to The Greene Town Center in Beavercreek to scope out some deals. Customers sauntered from store to store, with no rush or panic to get to the next deal. Both Guthrie and Kritner said the center didn’t seem too crowded, and attributed that to retailers opening on Thanksgiving.

“It takes a little bit of the chaos away,” he said.

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Still, some shoppers only came out on Friday as an act of defiance against retailers opening their doors on the national holiday. Millie Tucker, a Dayton resident, got up at 4 a.m. on Black Friday to shop for clothes, but refused to go out on Thanksgiving.

“It takes the fun out of it,” Tucker said. “You need to be with family.”

The retailers that did remain closed saw sweeping lines when the doors finally opened. Some big names — including Barnes & Noble, Staples, hhgregg, Nordstrom, Saks Fifth Avenue and Dillard’s — were closed on Thanksgiving, urging customers and employees to spend time with their families. Those retailers promoted early morning hours for Black Friday.

Cabela’s in Centerville, which closed on Thanksgiving, had more than 1,200 customers lined up outside when the doors opened at 5 a.m. Most of them had been there all night, equipped with propane heaters and blankets.

The store, located at 5500 Cornerstone North Blvd., advertised a giveaway of prizes, including gift cards, a firearm, a knife and a meat smoker. Some came out specifically for the chance to win free items. Nathan Brown, a resident of Wilmington, drove more than an hour to Cabela’s and was admittedly disappointed to only receive a $10 gift card.

“They said free gun, and I came running,” Brown said.

Brown said this will probably be the last time he comes to Cabela’s for Black Friday. He wasn’t, however, surprised by the long line of interested shoppers.

“Oh yeah, this is a redneck community,” he said. “It’s Ohio.”

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A crowd of shoppers in hoodies and winter coats stood next to the hhgregg near Dayton Mall as it opened it doors at 7 a.m. on Black Friday. Shannon Landers, a resident of Miamisburg, and her husband Blayne, waited in line for about 20 minutes for a 55-inch television. That store also closed on Thanksgiving, and its top leadership said they wanted customers and employees to honor the Thanksgiving holiday with family and friends.

“Normally, we stay comfy at home,” she said. “We do online shopping and other sales.”

In 2015, about 151 million shoppers were in stores and online over the Thanksgiving and Black Friday weekend. Of those shoppers, about 41 million — 46 percent — said they shopped online on Thanksgiving Day, according to the National Retail Federation. But some in-store deals are just too good to pass up.

Landers also went to Toys R Us and Target on Thanksgiving to buy gifts for their two children, but said she only went out on Thursday because that’s when the stores had their best sales.

“I think everyone should stay closed on Thanksgiving,” she said. “We should stop the craziness.”

For some, it will always boil down to the best bargains. At Costco in Centerville, shoppers looked to snatch up large TVs and other electronics like laptops and cameras. Chuck Heckman and his son, Robert, picked up two Nikon camera sets — and saved $300 off each.

“If the deals are there, I’ll be there,” Heckman said.

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