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With full stomachs, shoppers gobble up Christmas deals

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

For some Metro Detroiters, Thanksgiving has become more than parade floats, family feasts and football games.

After the tables are cleared, the family dispersed, ad circulers in hand and smartphones set, bargain hunters raced to retailers open on Thanksgiving for a smorgasbord of deep discounts to launch the Christmas buying season.

The $149 HDTVs at Walmart, $19.99 women’s boots at JCPenney, half-off Christmas trees at Target and other “doorbuster” deals were enough to lure consumers into the store aisles.

That included Best Buy in Novi, where crowds lined up outside, awaiting the 5 p.m. opening and a shot at seizing $9.99 Blu-Ray movies, $299.99 Dell laptops and other steals.

At Kohl’s in Northville, Fisher-Price and other popular toys were marked down as much as 50 percent.

Among the deals at Meijer, shoppers could save $620 on a Samsung 55-inch Smart TV, $100 on an Element 40-inch LED HDTV or 50 percent off a Mongoose 20 inch six speed bike.

Metro Detroiters were among a sea of consumers expected to flood stores nationwide this weekend.

The 2015 International Council of Shopping Centers Black Friday Shopping Study showed 71 percent of Americans expect to make holiday purchases between Thursday and Monday. They were expected to spend an average of $259 at brick-and-mortar retailers, the ICSC found.

And, as if on cue, hundreds of shoppers at Best Buy in Novi on Thursday packed the parking lot and lined up in a queue stretching around the building and next door. Families pushing strollers stood near couples leaning into each other in the cool breeze and others paused to snap photos of the crowd before the 5 p.m. opening.

Milawn McQueen of Bloomfield Hills arrived within minutes and found herself at the back of the line, imagining the $150 TV that enticed her to brave the throng. “That’s what I was going to get, if there were any left,” she said as the line slowly inched forward.

Venturing out this year didn’t affect her Thanksgiving plans, though. “I can still see my family after this,” she said.

Lavi Rohatgi, visiting from Vermont, made it a family affair, accompanying relatives to early-bird sales at JCPenney. They found a crock pot and small blender before heading to Best Buy, where she hoped to find a cheap Kindle.

The lines were long, too, outside a nearby Kohl’s, where promptly at 6 p.m. the doors opened to a steady stream of shoppers. Some sprinted past the red and gold decorations to seize $19.99 printers and $8.99 blue plaid throw blankets.

The bargains on jewelry, electronics and other items were why “everyone’s coming right in the door,” store manager Candice Lehmer said, adding that some shoppers even visited in the days leading up to the event to survey their browsing routes. “We had really competitive pricing this year.”

Apeksha Shah of Northville was with her son and husband to grab one of the remaining PlayStation 4 consoles. For them, it wasn’t about altering the holiday so much as enhancing the festivities with discounts.

“We have quality time together and we got a deal on what we wanted,” Shah said.

Debbie Faulkner of Novi and her family still kept their Thanksgiving tradition this year but tweaked it to stop in the store for a cheap toaster oven, shirts and Christmas gifts.

They had dinner early and then headed out. “It was no problem,” she said, pushing a full cart in the lengthy checkout line.

For Steph Ferguson of Windsor, there weren’t any conflicts. She and other Canadians celebrated Thanksgiving last month, so Thursday revolved around shopping in Metro Detroit with her mother to find “Christmas gifts — anything that’s a really good deal.”

“You can’t get these prices in Canada,” Ferguson said, standing amid racks of colorful blouses. “Even with the exchange rate you can’t beat a shirt that costs $3.”

Long after the sun set Thursday, shoppers also came to Meijer’s brightly lit aisles for deals.

Among them was Robert Carter of Northville, who combed the toy section seeking a fun Christmas gift for his son. His wife also scanned items for their daughter.

The family moved up their Thanksgiving meal, for which other relatives travel far, to accommodate the trip and not miss out on markdowns.

While eyeing the boxes and cartons before him, Carter noted the increasing push to lure shoppers on the holiday diminished Black Friday’s appeal. “I thought it was kind of fun getting up at 6. That’s Black Friday,” he said. “Now that they started it a day early, it takes the ‘oomph’ out of it.”

Nikhil Bulus of Northville and his wife hoped to find educational toys for their 2-year-old daughter. “We just want to make sure she learns the alphabet,” he said as the child sat in a shopping cart, holding a Winnie the Pooh wooden shape sorting cube.

Frankie Clark missed some of the feast at his aunt’s home nearby to search for a tablet that had apparently already sold out at another location, which left him with misgivings about the holiday hoopla.

“It’s definitely not worth it,” he said.