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Shoppers trade turkey for deals on Thanksgiving

By Christine MacDonald and Lauren Abdel-Razzaq
The Detroit News

Forget Black Friday.

Most major retailers opened their doors to shoppers on Thanksgiving this year, a change from years past.

At the JCPenny store in Troy's Oakland Mall, store leader David Keller donned red-and-white striped, fngerless gloves for the occasion. He opened the store doors at 5 p.m. to what he called, "The largest lines I've seen in 32 years. It was massive, wonderful, my favorite time of the year."

Store employees handed out $10 coupons to shoppers as they entered. The most popular item was a pair of $19.99 women's boots, along with kitchen appliances that were $9.99 after a $10 rebate.

Scoring two crock pots was Marlene McFadden and if the spirit of a Detroit Thanksgiving is embodied in an Metro Detroiter Thursday, it was this 69-year-old Warren resident.

McFadden started her day at 4 a.m., working in the hospitality room for clowns marching in the America's Thanksgiving Parade in downtown Detroit. After the parade, she headed to the Eastern Market to tailgate before the Lions game where, she admitted, she "had a couple of pops." After watching the Lions trounce the Chicago Bears, McFadden got Thanksgiving dinner at a restaurant and headed up to Troy to line up at JCPenny.

McFadden takes a dim view of shopping on Thanksgiving — "I do not like it because people have to work," she says —but overcame her objections to get bargain slow-cookers for her charity, the Sterling Heights Lioness Club.

At the Best Buy in Madison Heights late Thursday afternoon, Ruth VanRusten and several family members had been wating since 10 am Tuesday with had all the comforts of home in their tents, including a television to watch the Detroit Lions game and dinner trucked in by her parents.

They were hoping to snag a $199 50-inch television and $79 Dre Beats by Dre headphones.

"We weren't going to cook anyway," VonRusten said, 50, of Warren. "We are thankful everyday."

With some stores opening up as early as 6 a.m. and 8 a.m. on Thanksgiving (Kmart and Radio Shack), the opportunities for deals abound. In fact, retail research firm Market Track says the deals available on Thanksgiving will be even better than those on Black Friday.

According to a WalletHub survey, JC Penney, Macy’s, Rite Aid, Meijer and Sears will have the best deals for Black Friday.

The same applies to shopping online on Thanksgiving. According to Adobe, which tracks data on 4,500 retail web sites, online prices are expected to be 24 percent cheaper compared with 23 percent on Black Friday and 20 percent on Cyber Monday.

Black Friday has traditionally been the biggest shopping day of the year because that's when retailers pulled out all the stops for sales. But as competition has grown and retailers try to grab bigger pieces of an ever shrinking pie of brick-and-mortar sales, the deals have shifted earlier and earlier.

At Best Buy, the line of shoppers looped through the parking lot nearly all the way back to the entrance on John R. At 5 p.m., managers starting letting 50 shoppers at a time into the store, to avoid any pushing, shoving or worse. Shoppers were most interested in $199 50-inch Panasonic TVs as well as Xbox and PlayStation gaming systems, said manager Amanda Reeser.

"We just made some Christmas dreams come true," Reeser said at the store doors.

Barbara Jetmore of Warren had been in line since 2 p.m., and her ice-cold hands showed it. She was admitted as Shopper No. 153, looking to score a $29 printer and a deal on a cellphone.

"I'm going to get them and then I'm going to get warm," Jetmore said. She upgraded to a $49 printer but seemed unconvinced about the value of Black Thursday shopping. "This is the first time I've done this, but I don't know if I'd do it again."

Looking for a laptop was Haibin Pan, a recent graduate of Lawrence Technological University in Southfield. Pan now lives in Madison Heights but is originally from China so, "I'm not that concerned with Thanksgiving," he said. As for shopping on Thanksgiving, "It's too crazy," Pan said, as cars circled the packed parking lot like sharks, their drivers ready to pounce on any opening space.

Some people are complaining about the shopping eating in to family time. Others have embraced it. But either way, it's here to stay, Phoenix-based retail analyst Jeff Green told The Detroit News.

"I don't know whether the retailer thinks it's necessarily advantageous or profitable, but they must do it from a competitive standpoint," he said. "There are only so many dollars to be made, and they want you in their store first."

Shopping on Thanksgiving is also growing in popularity as more stores offer opportunities for deals and doorbusters.

On Monday, RetailMeNot released its annual Shoppers Trend Report, which shows 39 percent of consumers surveyed shop on Thanksgiving, whether that's in store, on a computer or a mobile device. That's up from 23 percent who shopped that day last year.

According to a WalletHub survey, JC Penney, Macy's, Rite Aid, Meijer and Sears will have the best deals. In the survey, which looked at 5,525 advertised deals from 21 retailers, jewelry is the most discounted item with 58 percent off on average. Electronic and computers are the least dicsounted items at 30 percent off on average.

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