North Texas shoppers gobble up Thanksgiving deals before Black Friday

The turkey and trimmings barely had time to cool on Thursday before customers were swarming to Dallas-Fort Worth area stores in search of deals ahead of Black Friday.

A plethora of stores kicked off their holiday sales starting as early as 3 p.m. Thursday. The retailers wished to capitalize on the many customers who, rather than spend more time hanging out with relatives at home, desired to walk off all those calories from the Thanksgiving meal at shopping centers.

Not everyone was sharing in the Thanksgiving spirit.

“A couple of fights almost broke out because people were cutting in line,” said Sumaiya Bhatti, a far north Fort Worth resident who was among about 300 people lined up outside a J.C. Penney store at Alliance Town Center hours before the doors opened at 3 p.m.

A few miles away, at Cabela’s, about a dozen prospective shoppers spent Wednesday night in tents — even though the store, which specializes in camping, hunting and other outdoor goods — wasn’t scheduled to open until 5 a.m. Friday. They planned to spend Thursday night outside the store as well.

Mickey Scott, 53, chomped on bean dip and played chess with another prospective shopper to pass the time outside Cabela’s. The store annually gives away hundreds of prizes, including scopes, smokers, knives — even a Browning rifle — to customers willing to wait in line before the holiday sale begins.

Scott said he only intended to spend about $200 or so — although he was willing to spend more if he spotted an irresistible deal. Either way, he couldn’t resist camping outside the store because so many items in the store likely would be cut to nearly half price.

“Even if I don’t find a good sale, I will probably grab some ammo,” he said.

Bucking tradition

For retailers, opening on Thanksgiving can have consequences. Many Americans are quick to criticize companies that go so far to infringe upon holiday family time. But retailers argue that they’re only giving customers what they want.

“Millions of customers have shown they enjoy shopping on Thursday, and we’re there to take care of them,” said Shane Kitzman, Minnesota-based spokesman for Best Buy, which opened its stores on Thanksgiving evening.

Best Buy customers found many deals in stores, where $200 gift cards are customarily given to shoppers who trade in a working phone for a new model. Also, Best Buy offered various deals online. The big box retailer now generates 10.8 percent of its revenue from online sales, Kitzman said.

At Alliance Town Center, about 100 people were camped outside a Best Buy Thursday afternoon waiting for a chance to get first dibs at the good prices.

Deals R Us

Toys R Us opened its doors at 5 p.m. at stores across North Texas and the rest of the United States. Most locations planned to remain open for 30 straight hours, until 11 p.m. Friday.

“Our customers have voted at the doors year after year, and they continue to want the option to get an early start on their holiday shopping lists,” said Joe Venezia, Executive Vice President, Global Store Operations.”

Toys R Us locations planned to feature “toy experts” at store fronts to help customers find any unusual items that may be on Santa’s list.

Also, express checkout lanes will be available for customers with four or fewer items.

But other stores insisted upon staying true to tradition.

Academy Sports + Outdoors planned to open at 5 a.m. Friday.

The company’s top gifts include a Char-Broil The Big Easy Oil-less Propane Turkey Fryer, Game Winner waterfowl hunting waders and boots and YETI Rambler Bottles.

Of course, if you were too busy with football or napping Thursday, Cyber Monday — online’s version of Black Friday — is just around the corner.

Gordon Dickson: 817-390-7796, @gdickson