Bethany Clough

Beige Thursday? Thanksgiving store openings start calm, get busy

Thousands of people across the Valley hit the stores in search of early Black Friday deals while their turkey still was digesting Thursday.

The earliest of the big-box stores, JCPenney at Fashion Fair in Fresno, opened at 3 p.m., with about 500 people streaming calmly into the store. Most large stores opened at 5 or 6 p.m., with the mall opening at 6 p.m.

At JCPenney, the shoe department quickly got crammed with people – with a few saying they couldn’t take the crowds and moving on. Although stores such as Target had short lines at first, the stores got increasingly packed as the night wore on.

Stephanie Sanchez of Fresno and her 17-year-old daughter were the first in line at JCPenney’s south entrance, arriving about two hours before the opening. Going shopping for Black Friday deals as soon as the stores open is a tradition for them.

“Originally, it started for the deals,” she said. “You do save a lot of money on Black Friday.”

Sanchez said she wasn’t thrilled to see store openings creep earlier each year (though this year, with the exception of JCPenney, most stores stuck to the same opening times as last year).

But like many who come out, shopping on Thanksgiving is a tradition.

“People tell me I’m crazy because of the chaos, but I’ve never encountered anything like that,” Sanchez said.

Though anticipation is the highest and lines outside stores are the longest on Thanksgiving, it’s one of the smaller shopping days of the multi-day shopping binge week as people opt to spend time with family instead.

About 15% of Americans planned to shop on Thanksgiving Day, according to a survey by the International Council of Shopping Centers.

Black Friday is still the top dog of the week of shopping, with 41% of Americans expected to shop. The day is expected to be the busiest by both number of shoppers and sales, according to research firm ShopperTrak.

Even more people are expected to shop throughout the weekend, including Small Business Saturday and online for Cyber Monday.

In the aisles

The shoe department was the main attraction for many at JCPenney. Alexandra Sharp of Selma had bought three pairs of shoes for herself and her daughter – they wear the same size – 27 minutes after the store opened. A pair of knee-high boots normally priced at $90 cost her just $9.99 between the $19.99 sale price and a $10 coupon a store employee handed her as she walked in.

Sharp and her 15-year-old daughter shop on Thanksgiving every year. Their meal with family came earlier in the day.

“We did it earlier and we had a good time with family,” she said. “This is a tradition that her and I do.”

JCPenney general manager Adrian Mijares said the staff working Thursday were “almost 100 percent volunteers.”

The store is paying the workers double time to work the holiday. Famous Dave’s catered a meal for them.

At Target on Blackstone Avenue at Bullard Avenue, the checkout line went up and down eight short aisles starting in the pets section less than hour after opening.

The hot deals of the night were $10 teddy bears about 3 feet tall that quickly sold out and 55-inch TVs. The TVs normally cost more than $600 and were on sale for $249. Target employees handed out vouchers for the TVs for the first in line to ensure there wasn’t any scrambling.

Kenya Combs and her daughter Samaria, 10, got to Target four hours before it opened to get one of the TVs.

“Why not? It’s fun,” she said, as she shivered and wrapped herself in a hot pink sheet.

The shopping does interfere with her Thanksgiving meal a bit, but Combs had a plan for that: She stayed up half the night cooking Thanksgiving dinner Wednesday night.

“We’ll eat when I get home,” she said. “As long as you spend time with family, right?”

Bethany Clough: 559-441-6431, @BethanyClough

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