Early-bird Thanksgiving shoppers flock to stores

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

Call it “Black Thursday” with the trimmings: With full stomachs, Detroit-area shoppers hit stores on Thanksgiving evening, looking for a next course after the pumpkin pie.

Shoppers snap up deals during Thanksgiving Day sales at Best Buy in Dearborn.

This year, Best Buy, Target and Macy's gave diners time to eat-and-run before stores began opening at 5 p.m. When stores opened an hour later at Great Lakes Crossing Outlets in Auburn Hills, there were many separate lines.

It was a busy start to a holiday shopping season that some analysts believe will spike nearly 6 percent this year.

More than 200 people wrapped around the Best Buy store on Ford Road in Dearborn at 5 p.m. Thursday. Those at the head of the line had been there since 1 a.m. to score free 42-inch televisions for the first 10 people through the doors.

Sam Alzayadi, Alex Hachem, Zein Alsaadawi and Hassan Aladifaii were among the first in line. They camped out together overnight in temperatures in the 20s for their free TVs. 

"It's freezing, but it's worth it," said Alsaadawi, from Dearborn. "We have another troop of guys at the Allen Park location. We'll probably sell most of them and use the money to buy Christmas gifts."

Sale-priced televisions were in high demand. Gone within minutes were Toshiba 43-inch 4K TVs for $130. 

Anna White of Dearborn Heights said, "I saved probably $50 on the Google Home smart speaker for a gift, but it's worth it because that adds up in the end,"

Families ditched the turkey early for deals at Great Lakes Crossing Outlets.

Hassan Raed from Dearborn filled two carts full of bags within an hour of shopping at the mall. He traveled with his three young sons, all who still had smiles on their faces trying to navigate through the massive crowds. 

"We came looking for covers and winter clothes. We spend about $400 so far and I think it's time to go home," said Raed, 42. "We only went to three stores and I'm done. Tired and I can't anymore."

Melissa Morang, marketing director for Great Lakes Crossing, couldn't put a number on the push of shoppers, but said traffic was about the same as a year ago.

"We see an initial rush of people coming in, especially in District 2 for handbags," Morang said. "Here we have Fossil, Michael Kors, Kate Spade, Coach... the big-name brands are the biggest attractions."

The Kate Spade store had a line of more than 70 people for $300 handbags on sale for $74. Under Armour, which opened at the mall this month, was another major attraction, offering half-off with an additional $30 discount on a $150 purchase.

"We spent at least $400 at Under Armour, but all together it would have originally cost over $1,000," said Satish Siddula, from Rochester Hills. "We bought hoodies, shoes and are now in line to get into Gap where we know we'll spend a lot on clothes with their 60 percent off."

Great Lakes crossing was to close at midnight and reopen at 6 a.m. Friday, a new policy the outlet implemented a few years ago instead of staying open through the night.

"Reopening at 6 a.m. has that same excitement as opening at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving," said Morang. "People line up outside again and our retailers prefer it."

An estimated 164 million people plan to shop in stores and online during the five-day period from Thanksgiving day through Cyber Monday. That's roughly the same number as last year, according to a survey by the National Retail Federation trade group and Prosper Insights & Analytics.

About 116 million people, or 71 percent of those shoppers, plan to shop on Black Friday alone. Yet, Mastercard is predicting that the Sunday before Christmas, Dec. 23, might be as busy as Black Friday. Also, the span between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year, at 32 days, is the longest possible and squeezes in a fifth weekend.

The result: For all of November and December, retail sales will reach $1.002 trillion, a 5.8 percent increase from last year and the first time they’ll cross the $1-trillion mark, the research firm EMarketer estimates.

Even brick-and-mortar sales will rise 4.4 percent to $878.4 billion, and physical stores still account for 87.7 percent of total holiday sales, EMarketer said. But the stores’ share of the retail market keeps declining; it was 91.7 percent in 2014.

At the same time, online sales will surge 16.6 percent this holiday season to $123.7 billion and amount to 12.3 percent of all sales during the season, EMarketer forecast.

Stephanie Gun of Detroit did her part to push holiday sales toward a record. She got in line at the Dearborn Best Buy after leaving work at 8 a.m. Thursday.

"It's so exciting to do this every year," said Gun, 53. "I'm here for two TVs, an alarm system and another air-fryer, and I'll probably leave with it for under $600."

The Los Angeles Times contributed.


Twitter: @SarahRahal_