Shoppers camp out for doorbuster deals
Nov 21, 2012 (The Macon Telegraph - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
On Thanksgiving Day, most folks participate in the long-held tradition of sitting around a table with family and friends enjoying turkey, dressing and enough desserts to feed a small army.
They might take a nap on the sofa in the afternoon, play a game of touch football or catch the real thing on TV.
But James "Jay" and Linda Albert have their own kind of Thanksgiving custom.
For the past seven years or so they've spent the day camping -- it's the only time they camp -- on the sidewalk outside the Best Buy store in the Eisenhower Crossing shopping center on Presidential Parkway.
"We were first last year," Jay Albert said.
This year they captured the second spot. While her husband was at work Wednesday morning, Linda Albert arrived about 9 a.m. and waited in a plastic chair until her husband came about 10 a.m. with an orange and gray dome tent, air mattress, a cooler filled with soft drinks -- and his laptop.
The Alberts are not alone. Within a few hours they were joined by a couple of other campers packing chairs and armfuls of blankets.
The man who garnered the first spot had set up his tent about 8 a.m. Wednesday and left early afternoon for a few hours to get some food. James Albert said he recognized the man from years of camping at the store before, but he couldn't remember his name.
The store is set to open at midnight Thursday, and the store will hand out tickets for the items the campers want to buy about 10 p.m., said Best Buy general manager Eli Douglass. This year, a security fence was set up to discourage people from breaking in the line of campers.
This year the Alberts are looking to buy several doorbuster deals, including a 40-inch TV, a laptop computer and an iPad.
"We usually get everything we set out to get," Jay Albert said.
It was important to find a way to save money, especially at Christmas time, he said, and that he and his wife checked around to make sure the "deals" are really good buys.
"The economy right now is not that great," he said. "I haven't seen anything like they are offering."
The Alberts have their own way of saving for their shop-camping tradition. Linda Albert buys a $25 Best Buy gift card every payday during the year, so when Thanksgiving rolls around -- and Black Friday specials -- she cashes in the cards.
Only downside: "I does get cold," she said. "But it's worth it."
Retailers connect with customers in many ways
Even though some retailers, like Wal-Mart, Toys R Us and Target, have moved up their opening time to 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. Thursday, the Alberts won't budge until they get their Best Buy deals. But family members may spread out and hit the other stores Thursday and Friday, he said.
Up to 147 million shoppers are expected to visit stores or shop online Black Friday weekend which is Friday through Sunday, according to the National Retail Federation. The retail group is projecting this year's sales to rise 4.1 percent from last year and if that estimate is correct, holiday sales would be $586.1 billion.
And many people -- about 40 percent -- began shopping before Halloween, the NRF reports.
"The days of waking up Thanksgiving morning to find out what retailers' Black Friday promotions will be has transitioned into an ongoing dialogue between companies and their customers starting days in advance," BIGinsight Consumer Insights Director Pam Goodfellow said in a NRF news release. "Through sites like Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest, company blogs, e-mails and mobile apps, consumers can connect with their favorite retailers like never before."
More than 80 percent of retailers will use Facebook to alert shoppers about in-store deals, an increase from 73.7 percent last year, the release stated.
Trends: early hours, online, layaway
Customers can expect retailers to continue to open their doors earlier and earlier as they compete for customers, the NRF reports.
The early opening hours on Thanksgiving are especially attractive to young adults who "like going to shop after lunch Thanksgiving," and don't like to get up early, said Ellen Davis, vice president of NRF.
"I think this is the year people are going in stores browsing and then buying online," Davis said. "Target is matching online prices ... some (retailers) have merchandise in stores you can't buy online. Retailers see online retail as competitors and are trying to set themselves apart."
Some people want to shop online from the comfort of their couch and CyberMonday -- the Monday after Black Friday -- continues to be a hot shopping day, the NRF reports. However, some retailers are participating in a Deal of the Hour on Black Friday through CyberMonday.com and offers will include free shipping specials, discounted merchandise and free gifts with purchases, the NRF release stated.
Layaway, which was brought back in several stores a couple of years ago, is "a big deal, especially with the economic environment," Davis said.
Gwen Wimberly of Twiggs County said Wednesday she hadn't started Christmas shopping yet, but she expected to go shopping Thanksgiving Day during the early shopping hours at Walmart and Target.
Wimberly doesn't shop online but her sister does and will let her know about something she might want to buy.
"I like to look at things and feel them," she said.
She expects to spend more than last year for Christmas gifts because she feels a little better about the economy, she said.
Wimberly had just left a jam-packed Kroger store Wednesday with items for her Thanksgiving meal.
While the Alberts celebrated a Thanksgiving-type meal last weekend -- which is a tradition in their family -- they still will not miss out Thursday.
"My stepdaughter will bring meals by," Jay Albert said. "We will still get turkey."
To contact writer Linda S. Morris, call 744-4223.
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