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Black Friday deal-getters head out on Thanksgiving

November 23, 2018

Waterford — For Josh Hickman of Norwich, standing in line in front of Best Buy as early as 11:30 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day was a necessity. The television he wanted, a 4k Toshiba selling at 330 price tag, wasn’t available online. The only way to get it was to show up at the Waterford store and wait.

“I figured I would get here early to make sure I would be the first one in line,” he said, sitting in a lawn chair bundled in a heavy, down winter coat and a green-knit snowcap. “Honestly, my wife had to work today, and I just want to appreciate the struggle. It makes getting a deal like this more worth it.”

Hickman was one of dozens waiting in front of Best Buy in the frigid cold early Thursday afternoon, lured by retail tactics to attract shoppers into brick-and-mortar stores — necessary strategies in the age of online shopping.

To keep up with the ever-increasing competition, most major retailers began their Black Friday deals on Thursday this year, as has been in the case in recent years past. Shopping hours started as early as 2 p.m. in some instances and extended well into the wee hours of Friday morning.

Locally, JCPenney at the Crystal Mall was the first to welcome shoppers Thursday, opening its doors at 2 p.m. GameStop and Old Navy followed close behind, opening theirs at 3 p.m.

Best Buy and Kohl’s in Groton opened at 5 p.m., and Target opened then as well, bumping up from 6 p.m. last year. Most other retailers opened at 6 p.m., kicking off the year’s most hectic buying period.

The National Retail Federation said more than 164 million consumers were planning to shop over the five-day Thanksgiving weekend, with 34 million planning to shop on Thanksgiving Day.

Black Friday still should be the busiest day of shopping this week, with 116 million predicted to turn out. But for those who don’t celebrate Thanksgiving or are working Black Friday, Thanksgiving shopping presents an alternative to Friday’s madness.

“I just love the experience of Black Friday shopping,” said Nancy Seery of North Stonington, carrying just-purchased bags of pillows and blankets to the car before returning to JCPenney for a second round of shopping Thursday. “I used to stand out in lines at 2 or 3 a.m. on Black Friday. I loved the excitement. But in a way, these hours are more convenient. At least I don’t have to freeze in the cold.”

“It’s better now. People are much less crazed,” Seery continued, despite standing in a store full of winding lines Thursday. “I just stood in line for an hour, but Black Friday 10 years ago was still much crazier. It used to be loads of fun and I miss that, but this is better.”

For some of Thursday’s consumers, Thanksgiving shopping offered a chance to snag the day’s best deals either before or after sitting for their dinners.  

Christina Rotharmel of Groton, standing in front of Best Buy Thursday afternoon, said she had her meal earlier in the day and came to Best Buy to have “fun.”

“We’re just a little group of nut balls aren’t we?” Rotharmel said laughing, looking at the ever-growing line in front of the big-box store. “It’s just fun meeting everyone while standing in line. I really enjoy the whole experience of shopping and being a part of the craziness.”

Standing next to Rotharmel was Debra Bohara of Norwich, a new friend she had just met in line.

“This is our dessert,” Bohara said. “All the money we are going to save today is simply our Thanksgiving dessert.”

m.biekert@theday.com

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