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Black Friday sales start before the turkey has time to cool

By Matthew F. Smith 6:00 PM November 29, 2013

Offering deals early on “Brown Thursday” has retailers expecting billions

ANCHORAGE – Millions of Americans spent “Black Friday” hunting for deals, but for many, the shopping started as early as the night of Thanksgiving.

“We were here last night and got a TV,” said Best Buy shopper Cris Sexton on Friday morning. “And then we came back today and got a laptop and headphones.”

Best Buy, Target, and Wal-Mart were among major national retailers who started their Black Friday deals a day early—so-called “Brown Thursday” deals by some—opening as early as 6 p.m. the night of Thanksgiving. Retail giant K-Mart opened at 6 a.m. Thanksgiving morning, staying open for 41 hours straight by the end of the day Friday.

For Sexton, the deals were good enough to cut their turkey dinner a little short.

“We did what we had to do in the morning, we sat around, and thought, well, let’s go walk off some turkey and go shopping!” she said, laughing.

“I think we saw the traffic we were looking for,” said Tikahtnu Commons Best Buy Manager Matt Cairy. He’s shepherded four different stores across the nation through the sometimes-violent Black Friday chaos. Getting the deals started early helped control the crowds and spread out the traffic. “People wanted to do Thanksgiving dinner and then go Black Friday shopping, so it was much more of a burst, instead of people camping out quite as long.”

Offering deals starting on Thursday could be big news for retailers’ bottom lines: the National Retail Foundation expects sales to top $6 billion this year, up nearly four percent over 2012.

Retailers weren’t the only ones seeing a Black Friday bump. A nearby Starbucks Café saw business double that of an ordinary day. On Thursday, their drive through was open through midnight, “and we got a lot [of customers] that were doing trips for people waiting in line,” said manger Savannah Scheyder. “We [also] got a lot of shoppers that came in after they were done and headed out.”

The business bump isn’t just for the national chains, either. One local business owner said Friday he sees business double from all the extra Black Friday foot traffic.

“It’s great. I love it,” said Ed Dodd, owner of Classic Toys in Midtown. “There’s only one reason why people are out here buying twice as much today. It’s closer to the holiday, and it’s closer to Christmas, but there’s a lot of frenzy out there.”

Shoppers patronizing local businesses said “keeping it local” provides a slightly saner shopping experience

“I normally don’t like to fight the crowds, and usually at the local stores it’s a little bit less crowded,” Classic Toys shopper Yevette Gillies said. “You’re not fighting the hoards. I shop year round, and [Black Friday] is a nice time to fill in that last minute shopping.”

Brown Thursday may mean Black Friday is starting earlier than ever, but bargain hunters are voting with their wallets, and the consensus seems to be a strong “yes” in favor of more sales.

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