Thousands of shoppers on Long Island finished the turkey with their families and hit the malls — and the web — on Thanksgiving Day to get a head start on deals and discounts.
“It was surprisingly busy” in stores, said Marshal Cohen, senior retail analyst with The NPD Group, a Port Washington-based market research company. “The lines are not around the corner like it used to be. The stores are a lot more organized and less chaotic. All in all it is a nice start to the holiday season.”
About 21 percent of an estimated 137.4 million shoppers this holiday weekend planned to shop on Thanksgiving Day, also known as Gray Thursday, slightly less than last year’s 22 percent, according to a survey from the National Retail Federation.
At JCPenney at Roosevelt Field mall, more than 100 people had lined up outside before the doors opened at 3 p.m. JCPenney was among the first retailers to kick off the Black Friday shopping craze on Thanksgiving.
“Happy Thanksgiving!” JCPenney employees greeted the crowd as they streamed in, handing out scratch-off coupons and a booklet with store deals.
As quickly as the JCPenney store opened, the lines of shoppers at the register swelled, requiring the store to open register after register.
Shopper Luzmila Cortez, 69, of Franklin Square, could not contain her excitement to take advantage of deals and get a head start on buying Christmas gifts. It was the first time she went shopping on Thanksgiving with her daughter, Cecilia Castillo, 25, and two grandchildren Andrew, 2, and Angelina, 3.
“I am going to buy a few things for Christmas,” Cortez said in Spanish, adding she may get clothes and her daughter came to buy luggage. “There are so many specials it makes me excited.”
Half an hour after JCPenney opened, the three-floor store was swarmed with shoppers, who roamed around the store to the sound of Christmas music.
Customers shopped for electronics, appliances and clothes, though gloves, scarves, sweaters and coats also were popular, said Caryn Weeks, general manager of JCPenney at Roosevelt Field.
“Customers are definitely preparing for the cold to come,” Weeks said.
At the Best Buy in Bay Shore, more than 300 people lined up early for the store’s 5 p.m. opening. One of them was Avishek Sharma, 31, of Deer Park, who got in line at 4 a.m. He planned to have Thanksgiving dinner after he accomplished his mission of buying a new TV for his wife, who was home cooking.
“I’m saving about $250 on the Toshiba television I’m going to buy,” Sharma said.
Other major chains such as Macy’s and Toys R Us unlocked their doors on Thanksgiving at 5 p.m. Walmart, Target, Kohl’s and Sears opened at 6 p.m. Kmart opened at 6 a.m.
At the Toys R Us in Bay Shore, Sue Mejia, 28, of Bay Shore, was shopping with her sister with only one toy in mind: Elmo.
“My son loves Elmo! He’s 19 months old and even says ‘Elmo’ so I had to get it for him and today it’s on sale,” Mejia said. “I prefer shopping in the store for things like this because when you buy things you really want online, you have to wait and there’s always the risk of the product getting damaged.”
On Long Island, most major malls opened at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving, closed for a few hours overnight and will reopen at 6 a.m. Friday. Others, such as Tanger Outlets in Deer Park and Riverhead, opened at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving and will remain open until 10 p.m. on Black Friday.
At Westfield South Shore, mall employees Christina Jackson, 24, and Adam Mosebach, 32, tried to make shoppers’ evening a little merrier by handing out gift cards.
“It’s really nice to see the reactions on people’s faces,” Jackson said.
Jackson handed shopper Maria Santos, 49, of Bay Shore, a $25 mall gift card.
“Thank you so much,” Santos said in Spanish. “This is sweet. I will probably use it to buy a new sweater. I’ve been needing that. I think I’ll go to JCPenney.”
Retailers started offering Black Friday sales on Thanksgiving in 2011 to try to compete with online sellers. But some retailers — including P.C. Richard & Son, Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, Burlington Stores, DSW, Home Goods, T.J. Maxx, Marshalls and GameStop — refused to open so employees and customers could spend the holiday with families and friends. Instead, they plan to open Black Friday, some as early as 5 a.m.
This year, online sales on Thanksgiving are expected to come close to $2 billion, about a 15 percent increase from last year, according to digital software company Adobe Systems Inc., based in San Jose, California.