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LI shoppers brave frigid temperatures for Thanksgiving sales

Hundreds of people searched for bargains Thursday, the kickoff of the five-day period that includes Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday — some of the biggest shopping days of the year.

Black Friday shopping came early for some Long Islanders, as bargain-hunters hit the stores on Thanksgiving. (Credit: Newsday / Raychel Brightman)

Andrea Mouradian is no stranger to Thanksgiving Day shopping.

The North Bellmore resident said hitting the stores after eating dinner has become a family tradition. And this Thanksgiving was no different, as she and her mother could be found shopping at the Best Buy on Hempstead Turnpike in Levittown Thursday afternoon.

“I’m buying a TV and a GoPro,” said Mouradian, 38.

“And saving hundreds of dollars,” she added. “It’s the best pricing, even better than Black Friday, although I’ll probably shop tomorrow too.”

Mouradian and her mother were among the hundreds on Long Island who braved below-freezing temperatures in search of bargains Thursday, the kickoff of the five-day period that includes Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday – some of the biggest shopping days of the year.

Experts said the chill could bode well for retailers, putting some holiday shoppers in the mood to buy coats, gloves, winter sports equipment and other items used outdoors.

“So, the combination of dry (or lack of inclement weather) and colder temps is expected to be good for overall store traffic and — for those customers out and about — seasonal categories will do well,” said an emailed statement from Evan Gold, executive vice-president for Global Partnerships & Alliances at Planalytics, a Berwyn, Pennsylvania-based company that quantifies the economic impacts of weather on businesses.

Products that will see sales boosts include heaters, whose sales will be 32 percent higher than they were last year; hats, gloves and scarves, 19 percent higher; coats, 11 percent higher; and winter sports equipment, 13 percent higher, according to Planalytics.

Indeed, Steven Vella, 22, and his girlfriend, Karina Payan, 21, stopped by the Target in Westbury Thursday afternoon with the goal of buying just two things: a portable Honeywell heater for their Bayville apartment and pajamas. They had no interest in any other Black Friday shopping.

“Everything is online now anyways,” Vella said.

But many others were drawn to local stores with the promise of deals on high-ticket items such as televisions and other pricey electronics.

After waiting in line for several hours, about 100 customers flooded into the Levittown Best Buy when the store opened its doors at 5 p.m.

Most were eager to get their hands on a 43-inch Toshiba flat screen television that was on sale for $129, down from $300. Others were looking for Sony PlayStation 4s, video games, cameras and AirPods, wireless headphones made by Apple.

Through the hustle and bustle of customers grabbing at large TVs and picking and choosing this electronic over that one, shouts of excitement and sighs of disappointment, as well as snippets of bargain hunting chatter, were easily overhead: “If it’s not on sale, I don’t want it” paired with a “Dammit, they’re all sold out” and the occasional “I’ll just come earlier next year.”

Among the crowd of shoppers was Gustavo Estrada, 52, of Roosevelt, who — despite being skeptical of store deals and saying he’s long believed retailers mark up items before discounting them — ventured out in search of Thanksgiving Day sales.

With his 14-month-old daughter Karla in tow, Estrada shopped for a TV and a stereo he had had his eye on for more than a year.

“I’m getting a TV that was originally $800 for $529,” he said. “The stereo was $450 and today is down to $250. I have to admit it’s really worth it.”

While his wife perused items on sale at a nearby Kohl’s, Estrada and his daughter, who he affectionately called “Karlita,” selected a 55-inch flat screen Samsung TV.

“This is where you’ll watch your cartoons now,” he said, turning to Karlita, who pointed at the large brown box and smiled a toothy grin.

Meanwhile, at the Westbury Target Gabriel Piris, 40, of Brooklyn, was first in a line of about 250 people who stood in the freezing cold waiting to get in the store when it opened at 5 p.m.

Piris came for a 55-inch Element TV, which was on sale for $199.99, down from its regular price of $379.99, and a Sony PlayStation system that was $199.99, down from $299.99.

Standing in the frigid air for two hours was worth it, he said.

“It’s the prices. It’s much, much different,” he said.

Black Friday began creeping into Thanksgiving regularly about five years ago, and several retailers opened their doors earlier than they ever have on the holiday.

But despite the crowds at some stores, foot traffic is down overall as consumers do more of their shopping electronically in the comfort of their homes.

Online shopping between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday is projected to account for $23.4 billion in sales, a 19.4 percent increase from the amount spent during the period last year, according to Adobe Analytics, a division of San Jose, California-based software company Adobe Inc.

Linda Regueiferos, 38, and her husband, Anthony Regueiferos, 40, of Levittown, said Thanksgiving Day shopping is usually a big no for the couple but they decided to go to Best Buy Thursday for a deal on a gift for their son’s 13th birthday.

“That’s the only reason we’d stand in line freezing our butts off,” Anthony Regueiferos said. “I shopped on Thanksgiving once before and said never again, but here I am.”

Retailers have gotten better about spreading out their discounts over the holiday season, so the five-day shopping period that starts with Thanksgiving has less of a sense of urgency, said Marshal Cohen, a retail industry expert at the NPD Group, a market research firm based in Port Washington.

That may be so, but Mouradian’s mother, Joanne Nelson of Albertson, said she enjoys the rush of shopping on Thanksgiving.

“Plus, you get good buys, so why not?” she said. “The guys are home washing dishes, we’re shopping, and later we’ll go home and eat dessert.”

Earlier in the day, food was on the minds of last-minute shoppers at the King Kullen supermarket in Bay Shore. At 2:30 p.m. Thursday, just half an hour before closing time, about two dozen people scrambled up and down the aisles grabbing that “one last thing” needed to complete their holiday feasts.

For Gary Eugenio, 43, of Bay Shore, it was the stuffing.

“We already have everything else,” said Eugenio in Spanish. “But you can’t have turkey without stuffing.”

Eugenio, who was born in Mexico, was shopping with his wife, Zoila, and their five-year-old daughter Daisy.

“As soon as we get home, we”ll start cooking,” he said. “It’s going to be a Thanksgiving dinner with a twist. We'll also have rice ‘a lo Latino’”

Kakita Moore was also in the supermarket looking “for a very important ingredient” with her daughters, Savannah, 7, and Makayla, 5.

“The honey,” she said. “Can’t have the ham without it. I even called to make sure the supermarket was still open. I’m so glad they were. They saved me.”

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