Watching thousands of customers stream through Target's doors on Thanksgiving night, general manager David Pena noticed how the demographics of the Black Friday shoppers had changed.
“I'm seeing more families and younger people,” he said. An estimated 3,500 shoppers were in line for the store's 9 p.m. opening — 50 percent more than last year, when the store opened at midnight.
Black Friday sales kicked off earlier than ever this year, with Toys R Us, Sears and Walmart leading the pack in the metro area at 8 p.m. Most stores will continue to have deals throughout the day, and many shoppers said they planned to keep going all night.
Tulsa resident Jamie Rochester traveled to The Outlet Shoppes of Oklahoma City as part of her Black Friday shopping agenda.
Rochester, 22, was the first person waiting in line at the Coach Factory store. Behind her were scores of other shoppers waiting to get into the upscale handbag store.
Rochester said she made the two-hour trip for one reason.
"They have the best deals, the best selection and it's the closest one to my house."
At the Quail Springs Super Target, shoppers waited in a line that snaked around the front and side of the building.
Donna Shepard, who was seeking a good deal on a TV, said she has waited in similar lines for the past four holiday seasons.
"It's kind of a tradition for me and my husband ... something fun to look forward to," said Shepard, 58. "But you really can find a deal and save yourself some money. It's not all fun and games."
By 9 p.m., Rosita Begay had already been to Toys R Us and joined her family in the front of the line at Target in Moore.
Sure, her family has a typical Thanksgiving dinner tradition, but they also have a tradition of deal seeking together.
“Thanksgiving — we had it. We said ‘eat fast.' It's to-go,” Begay, of Colorado, said. She's spending the holiday here with her daughter, Amber McQuerry and her husband, Jason.
Though some shoppers — and retail workers — have grumbled about the event's creep into Thanksgiving, many embrace the change. An estimated 41 million U.S. shoppers were expected to shop on Thanksgiving this year, or 17 percent of all consumers, and 80.5 million on Black Friday, a third of consumers, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers. Over half of all consumers say they will shop at some point during the Thanksgiving weekend.
One-third of those consumers say they are planning to shop on Thanksgiving Day because it's an earlier opportunity to find bargains, said Michael Niemira, vice president of research and chief economist for the International Council of Shopping Centers. Other reasons include — “it is something to do,” it is an easier time of day to shop, and they expect crowds will be smaller than on Black Friday.
Consumers, it seems, have accepted sales beginning on Thanksgiving. Last year, nearly a quarter of shoppers were at a store by midnight. In 2010, fewer than 10 percent were and in 2008, just over 2 percent were.
Cindee Riley, of Tuttle, was one of the first shoppers in the door at the Norman Toys R Us store. She had dinner with her family at 11 a.m. and was in line by 4 p.m. with her daughter, Summer Everett, wearing matching shirts that read “If you get trampled, I'll quickly reach over you for the TV.” The early 8 p.m. opening gave them a jump on the night's agenda, which included at least five stores.
“It's a lot better. This way, we can hit more stores,” Riley said.
Contributing: Staff Writer Andrew Knittle.