As retailers tout early sales, shopping crowds grow on Thanksgiving


Move over Black Friday. Shoppers came out in hoards to start their holiday shopping early this year, crowding retailers in the late afternoon of Thanksgiving Day.

An estimated 164 million people are planning to shop this weekend, according to the annual survey released by the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics. The numbers include Thanksgiving Day, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Sunday and Cyber Monday.

While Black Friday is still expected to be the largest shopping day of the weekend — with 115 million people planning to shop today — swarms of people in the region got a jump-start on their shopping during Thanksgiving. Crowds started out small in the early morning, but stretched into long lines outside of retailers like Elder-Beerman and JCPenney as the day went on.

» Thanksgiving, Black Friday shopping: Best deals we found today

Holiday spending in Ohio is expected to grow 2 percent this year compared to 2016, bringing in an estimated $24.1 billion statewide — and people in the Dayton region are expected to spend more than last year. NRF projects that holiday retail sales in November and December this year will be up between 3.6 percent and 4 percent for a total between $678.8 billion and $682 billion. Consumers say they will spend an average $967.13 this year, according to the annual survey conducted.

Meijer stores opened at 6 a.m. yesterday, one of the first retailers to open early on Thanksgiving. Though lines were not long, shoppers waited in the electronics and toys sections to land deals on hot items like Keurig makers, iPhones and wireless printers.

David Taliaferro, of West Carrollton, arrived at Meijer on Springboro Pike around 6 a.m. With a cart full of electronics, he waited in a short line for an Amazon Fire TV Stick on sale for $25. The product usually sells for $45 or more.

“I bought a TV for my sister,” he said. “I’ll probably go out shopping later today, but I’ve gotten a lot of the big ticket electronics in the past couple of years, so I’m not looking for too much.”

» Thanksgiving shopping: Stores open early today for Black Friday deals

Dozens of people waited in line outside of Elder-Beerman in Kettering. The retailer, which opened its doors at 11 a.m. on Thanksgiving, gave away gifts cards of various amounts to the first 200 people in line at all stores. Karen Miller, of Bellbrook, goes shopping every year on Thanksgiving and Black Friday and said she’s landed some amazing deals on electronics like an iPhone 6S.

“I’m looking for gifts for my nieces,” she said. “Probably pajamas, socks. We’ll go to the Mall at Fairfield Commons later.”

An estimated 78 million people will shop on Cyber Monday and 71 million will shop on Saturday to support small businesses. Retailers have been pushing early sales since October, offering special online deals on weekends for consumers.

Steve Willshaw, the general manager of The Greene Town Center in Beavercreek, said the shopping center starts to see larger crowds the weekend before Thanksgiving and Black Friday.

“It stays busy after that,” he said. “No one is going to argue that online sales have become a part of the shopping experience but you can’t dine online, take a carriage ride or enjoy any of the other holiday festivities that are associated with this time of year at The Greene.”

» RELATED: 17 retail horror stories that show working Black Friday is the worst

About 56 percent of consumers have already started their holiday shopping. The holiday shopping season is vital to strong national, state and local economies because retail supports one in four jobs in Ohio. Ohio’s retail industry accounts for $26.5 billion of Ohio’s annual gross domestic product, according to the Ohio Council of Retail Merchants.

For some shoppers in the region, it isn’t just about the deals — Thanksgiving and Black Friday shopping has become another tradition that allows them to spend time with loved ones. In the early afternoon of Thanksgiving, at least 100 people stood in line to receive free gift cards of various amounts from Elder-Beerman in Kettering.

Brenda Rumbaugh, of Belmont, usually dresses up as Mrs. Claus or as an elf for Thanksgiving and Black Friday shopping. Standing in line with a friend and family member, Rumbaugh said waiting in line isn’t a burden when you’re doing it with company.

“I’m always done with my shopping before now,” she said. “I just do this for fun. I make it a fun day.”

After making it through the line, Rumbaugh pointed at her friend, who grinned.

“Now, she’s happy. She got a $50 gift card.”

CONTINUED COVERAGE

This newspaper is committed to bringing you in-depth reports about the busiest shopping season of the year — work made possible by your subscription. Count on us to tell you about the best deals, the latest shopping trends and business developments happening in your community.

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