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Retailers bank on Thanksgiving shoppers

Stores open earlier than ever for Black Friday

MADISON, Wis. - Madison shoppers cash in on Thanksgiving deals

Step one: Stuff your turkey.

Step two: Stuff your belly.

Step three: Stuff your shopping bags.

It's a schedule some retailers are banking on becoming a new tradition for consumers.

Lines were wrapping around stores hours earlier than what shoppers are used to. 

The Best Buy store on Madison's west side opened its doors at 6 p.m. Thanksgiving Day to a flood of people ready to buy  whatever electronics they want or need this holiday season.  The manager at that location said customers told the corporation they had an appetite for earlier shopping.

Jerry O'Brien with the UW Center for Retailing Excellence expected the Thanksgiving Day trend to continue, even though some feel like asking customers to buy and telling employees to work on the holiday encroaches on family time.

"Consumers have to decide who to reward," O'Brien said.

Blain's Farm and Fleet took the risk of losing some Black Friday business to keep its stores closed on Thanksgiving, even advertising the company's tradition of letting employees have the day off.

"I think the company feels it's worth it," Blain's Farm and Fleet manager Dennis Dischler said.  "There is probably a loss in sales involved in it, but in the long run, I think the value is allowing the associates to have time with their family and friends and have a good Thanksgiving dinner."

"While we want to chase good deals, we also want to reward the companies that are doing business in a way that we think is good for us," O'Brien said.

O'Brien said as more stores do jump on the early shopping bandwagon, it will be interesting to see how retailers keep up competition for the consumers' dollars and which schedules are rewarded with their business.

"If everyone opens on Thanksgiving, I think we could debate if it's any good because it's really just spreading out the sales," O'Brien explained.  "At the same time, how can you take the risk of being the one who isn't open on Thanksgiving?"

O'Brien expected Black Friday sales to be up about 3 percent, according to projections.  He said regardless of the early door-buster deals, he believes Friday will still be seen as the official kickoff to the holiday shopping season.

O'Brien also mentioned this year's gift-buying time is cut short due to a late Thanksgiving.  That and the state of spending has pushed retailers to vie for your attention.

"It's been a very modest year.  There hasn't been a lot of growth in the economy in general, but certainly not retail sales," O'Brien explained.  "So there are a lot of retailers who have their hopes high that this will be a great season, another reason they're willing to risk some extra days and really get out there and make sure they get the share of your wallet."

O'Brien said surveys show one in four Americans are OK with Thanksgiving Day shopping.

He added cybersales are predicted to be up about 30 percent this year compared to last.  However, that still won't put online business close to what's done in the stores.

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