NEW HARTFORD — Forget turkey, Lisa Richards’ biggest Thanksgiving tradition is finding the best possible holiday shopping deal she can get.
For the past 10 years or so, that has involved the 47-year-old Utica resident camping out in front of the Kmart on Commercial Drive in New Hartford at the crack of dawn, waiting for the doors to open at 6 a.m.
“Who needs to spend time with their family at that hour,” asked Richards, who bought some $5 Barbie dolls and a bunch of other toys. “They’re all sleeping anyway, so I’m out getting good deals.”
Richards was one of about 100 people lined up outside Kmart on Thursday morning, many of whom were vying for deep price cuts on computer tablets and televisions.
While Kmart has been open all day on Thanksgiving for about 20 years now, more and more department stores followed suit this year, kicking off their Black Friday deals a day early.
Walmart and Best Buy opened at 6 p.m., followed by the likes of Macy's, Target, Kohl's, J.C. Penney and Sears at 8 p.m., which was an hour earlier than last year.
When the appointed hour came, Laura Stalnaker and her mother, Patti Corey, were bundled up in their warmest winter gear at the front of the line of about 50 people waiting to get inside Kohl’s at The Orchard in New Hartford.
Stalnaker and Corey have been shopping Kohl’s Black Friday sale for about eight years now, and were excited to be able to get in a day early this year. They even celebrated Thanksgiving on Wednesday, just so they could hit every sale throughout the day.
“It’s become a tradition for us,” the 25-year-old Westernville resident said. “We get our flyers out and lay out our battle plans. It’s my favorite day of the year.”
With Thanksgiving falling late this year, retailers lost a week of crucial holiday shopping time. They appeared more determined than ever to drive customers in, with some even promoting pre-Black Friday sales last weekend.
Rome resident Linda Murphy doesn’t seem to mind. She and her husband had an early afternoon Thanksgiving dinner at Ponderosa before heading to Kmart to try to score some deals on appliances.
“I’m OK with it,” the 64-year-old said. “People should be able to shop at their own convenience and do what’s good for them.”
But not everyone thinks opening stores earlier is a good thing.
Tom Freeland of Rome found himself wandering into Kmart out of boredom Thursday since he wasn’t eating dinner until later in the day. He found a couple of good buys, and enjoyed the relative calm of the store compared to the chaos of Black Friday, but said he wasn’t completely sold on the idea.
Page 2 of 2 - “I think they’re overdoing it,” the 55 year-old said. “The whole thing has become completely over commercialized. It’s too much.”