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Poll shows more Thanksgiving shopping

Shoppers line up outside the Target on Hempstead

Shoppers line up outside the Target on Hempstead Turnpike in Levittown on Thanksgiving evening, waiting to take advantage of Black Friday deals. (Nov. 22, 2012) Credit: Daniel Brennan

Opening their doors and offering sales on Thanksgiving did more than give retailers an early start to the holiday shopping season -- the holiday actually may have drawn more shoppers than Black Friday.

Thirty percent of Americans surveyed in a new Reuters/Ipsos poll said they shopped either online or in stores this past Thanksgiving Day, slightly more than shopped on the day after, which is typically the biggest shopping day of the year.

Of those who said they shopped in stores on Thanksgiving, it was the first time for nearly one-third of respondents, suggesting that moving sales events into the evening and even earlier on the holiday succeeded in wooing shoppers.

"People are adjusting to the changes, and they're not as upset that it's on Thanksgiving," said Jharonne Martis, director of consumer research for Thomson Reuters.

Retailers including Gap Inc. and Sears Holdings Corp. held special sales on Thanksgiving Day itself, while chains such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Target Corp. waited until after the country had digested holiday meals to offer their big discounts. Wal-Mart started its specials at 8 p.m., its earliest start ever, while Target opened stores at 9 p.m. on Thanksgiving for the first time.

A total of 30 percent of 3,815 respondents said they shopped on Thanksgiving, while 29 percent said that they shopped on Black Friday. Twenty percent of shoppers said they visited stores on Thanksgiving, and 15 percent said they shopped online that day. People could choose more than one response.

To be sure, the difference in Thanksgiving and Black Friday shoppers is one percentage point. But the results are the latest data that hammer home not only how much more important Thanksgiving Day is becoming, but also how Black Friday shopping has receded a bit.

Black Friday is still a huge day for retailers, but it is losing significance as chains start promotions earlier in the week both in stores and online. ShopperTrak, which measures foot traffic at stores across the country, estimated that sales fell 1.8 percent on Black Friday itself yet rose 2.7 percent for the overall weekend, which included Thanksgiving Day.

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