News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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November 29, 2013

BLACK FRIDAY: Shoppers return for more

Thanksgiving, Christmas not separated by day of rest

TERRE HAUTE — Lots of picked-over gift items bearing Indianapolis Colts horseshoes or St. Louis Cardinals emblems were still sitting on the shelves of Terre Haute retail shops late Friday as the dust from a record-long Black Friday began to settle.

Most big box stores at Honey Creek Mall and elsewhere opened at 8 p.m. Thursday – four hours earlier than last year. This gave people a chance to shop after their Thanksgiving dinners, but the move drew criticism from some who believe the holiday is not a day for shopping or work.

Still, according to early reports, sales were brisk around the country. Walmart reported more than 10 million transactions from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday with more than 22 million shoppers at its stores, according to the Christian Science Monitor.

About 24 percent of the 33 million people expected to shop this weekend did so on Thanksgiving Day, the newspaper reported.

For those who went shopping Thursday evening in Terre Haute, the stores were busy, but not chaotic or unpleasant, said Jean Forsythe, who was among the early birds out searching for Thanksgiving night deals.

“It was fun,” she said, resting on a bench Friday evening, back in Honey Creek Mall. “It was nice. The mall was busy, but not too busy.” That was her first Black Friday shopping experience, Forsythe said. However, she would probably do it again, she said. Despite getting very little sleep, she was back Friday evening with the rest of her family. “They weren’t going to leave me at home,” she said.

Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving, the biggest single shopping day of the year. Many retailers see their annual balance sheets go from the “red” to the “black” on that day, which accounts for the name.

This year, because Thanksgiving came later in the month than usual, there will be just four shopping weekends before Christmas, one fewer than last year. That’s one reason forecasters expect growth to be lighter this year than last year. More sales are expected, but the growth in sales from 2012 was not expected to be as great as the big jump from 2011 to 2012.

At JCPenney, one of the big box retailers in Honey Creek Mall, crowds were strong Thursday night and into Friday evening. Long lines at the checkout stations were still visible at 5 Friday night.

“It really was wonderful,” said Dawn Butler, store leader at JCPenney. “We had great traffic when we opened. Customers were in a great mood.”

It’s too early to know for certain how sales looked, but crowds at Honey Creek appeared strong, as they did all across the southside shopping district in Terre Haute beginning Thursday evening. About dinner time Friday night, a line was 20 people deep, mostly women holding shopping bags, at Aunt Anne’s pretzel shop in the mall.

“We’re getting more of [our Christmas shopping] done,” said Peggy Myers of Riley, who was resting in an unactivated massage chair in the mall awaiting her daughter. Myers, a retired nurse, said she at first objected to the stores opening on Thanksgiving, but then thought about the families of nurses on duty with little else to do that evening. And with stores opening at 8 p.m., “it gave people time to be with their families.”

The mall stores were active and busy with shoppers, Myers said. But the crowds weren’t bad. Check out lines tended to be long, however, she said.

A still-dragging economy, the government shutdown and the implementation of the Affordable Care Act all were expected to put a damper on shopping this year. And, according to a recent Gallup poll, Americans planned to spend less this year on gifts. Americans told Gallup they planned to spend about $706 on gifts this season compared with $770 last year.

Still, that was not obvious in Terre Haute. If sales were down, crowds didn’t seem to be. For now, it’s too soon to know for sure. Retailers will report their fourth-quarter sales figures early next year.

Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at 812-231-4232 or arthur.foulkes@tribstar.com.

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