Thanksgiving shopping crowds 'good not great'; online sales strong

Thu Nov 26, 2015 9:20pm EST
 
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By Nathan Layne and Nandita Bose

PITTSBURGH/CHICAGO (Reuters) - Retailers across the United States offered early Black Friday discounts to lure bargain-hunters on Thanksgiving eve, but initial checks showed crowds in brick-and-mortar stores were subdued even as online sales jumped.

"It's still early, and from what we are seeing so far the crowds are good but not great," said Craig Johnson, president of Customer Growth Partners. The retail consultancy has 18 members studying customer traffic in different parts of the country.

However, many stores were packed. At the Toys R Us in New York's Times Square, a line of about 200 shoppers, hemmed in by barricades, stretched to the corner of 45th Street and toward Sixth Avenue, where the Macy's Inc (M.N: Quote) Thanksgiving Day parade had ended a few hours earlier.

The first shoppers through the door cheered as they were greeted by store employees donning Santa hats.

The rush on the night of the U.S. holiday, a month before Christmas, reflects the new normal in U.S. holiday shopping, which was traditionally kicked off the next day, Black Friday.

In an effort to attract the most eager holiday shoppers and fend off competition from Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O: Quote), U.S. retailers have increasingly extended their holiday deals by opening stores on the evening of Thanksgiving.

This hurt customer turnout on Black Friday last year, a trend analysts and consultants expect will repeat this year.

"I can wait until tomorrow but it's more exciting today," said Daipayan Deb, a shopper in his mid-thirties at a packed Wal-Mart super center on the outskirts of Pittsburgh. "Previously, I used to start shopping on Black Friday, but now it's Thursday."   Continued...

 
Shoppers wait to enter Macy's Herald Square store during the early opening of the Black Friday sales in the Manhattan borough of New York, November 26, 2015. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly