GeGe Williams joined 18 family members Thursday for a sprawling Thanksgiving feast of turkey, collard greens, macaroni and cheese, seafood rice, stuffing and banana pudding.
They had to eat quickly. It was 11 a.m., and they wanted to get in line to shop.
“Half of us went to Walmart and half of us came here,” Williams, a fast-food cashier from Miami, said shortly before 6 p.m. from a bench outside the Best Buy at the Dadeland Station Mall.
Williams joined tens of thousands of South Florida residents in condensing or abandoning their Thanksgiving routines Thursday to snag bargains reserved for the earliest of holiday shoppers.
At a Doral Toys R Us, more than 300 people waited in line for an 8 p.m. opening, the earliest yet for a store that four years ago kept closed through Thanksgiving. But with more retailers seeing midnight openings on Friday too long a wait for holiday sales, Toys R Us opted to move its "door buster" frenzy into Thanksgiving evening.
The earlier opening brought Rebecca Sucarino to Toys R Us at 10 a.m. to claim the first spot in line. The insurance specialist was joined by her husband and friends, while her three children ate Thanksgiving with Sucarino’s mother.
This is Sucarino’s third year at the front of the line on Thanksgiving at the same Toys R Us. She’s on the hunt for baby clothes and a $100 trampoline selling for $50.
She said she’s happy to be able to afford a big Christmas haul for her three kids (ages 11, 3 and six months) but does regret having to stake out a store on Thanksgiving.
“This is my son’s first Thanksgiving. It bothers me a lot,” she said. “But it feels good to get the kids a lot of toys and not spend as much.”
While the Toys R Us line grew throughout the evening, the second group of shoppers didn’t show up until around 5 p.m.
Such was the luck of Thanksgiving Day shopping, with some die-hards realizing they had arrived hours or even days earlier than they needed to.
At a Doral Best Buy, Valentina Sierra stood by a tent she and a fellow Starbucks worker pitched there on Monday. When did the people that snagged Spot No. 2 arrive? Wednesday, Sierra said, rolling her eyes.
She planned on buying a $499 40-inch Toshiba television on sale for $179 as a gift for her parents. About 40 spots down a line topping 200 around 7 pm, Florida International University student Jason Kalil wanted the same item. He wasn’t hopeful and blamed local police.
Kalil explained he arrived around midnight and placed his tent near Sierra’s. While charging a phone Thursday morning, Kalil saw someone had inserted their tent, claiming improper dibs on Kalil’s part. A scuffle ensued, the police summoned.
“They ordered me to the back of the line,” Kalil said.
Nationwide, a similar shopping story unfolded as shoppers put down the turkey to take advantage of Thanksgiving deals.
Stores typically open in the wee hours of the morning on the day after Thanksgiving that’s named Black Friday because that’s when stores traditionally turn a profit for the year. But Black Friday openings have crept earlier and earlier over the past few years. Now, stores are opening their doors on Thanksgiving evening, hoping Americans will be willing to shop soon after they finish their pumpkin pie.
Retailers are hoping that the Thanksgiving openings will draw shoppers who prefer to head to stores after their turkey dinner rather than braving the crowds early the next morning. Overall, about 17 percent of shoppers plan to take advantage of Thanksgiving hours, according to an International Council of Shopping Centers-Goldman Sachs survey of 1,000 consumers.