RALEIGH — Tradition lost out at Dorothy Lees house on Thursday.
The turkey was cooked Wednesday. The Thanksgiving meal was at midday, not in the evening as the family has always done. All because everyone wanted to get to the stores before the Black Thursday deals were gone.
Lee, of Cary, said she was shocked when she realized how much times have changed. Thanksgiving Day, a once sacred bastion of family time, is slowly giving way to an annual bargain hunt as competing stores move up their opening times.
About 33 million shoppers were expected to shop Thanksgiving Day, according to a preliminary survey by the National Retail Federation. That represents about 23.5 percent of the 140 million shoppers expected to hit the stores during the holiday weekend, according to the federation.
With national retailers such as Belk, Macys, Best Buy and Target opening their doors sometime between 6 and 8 p.m. for Thanksgiving Day sales, families like Lees had to decide when to squeeze in the turkey, stuffing and the fixings.
Originally, it was that we would eat and then go out and shop as a family, Lee said. Now its instead of. I heard my family asking, What are we going to do about dinner? Theres this paranoia where you ask, What if I get (to the stores) too late?
The familys compromise of moving up the meal allowed them to get to the stores by 4 p.m.
Lee, however, didnt have to wait until the evening for bargain hunting. She scored a microwave for $49.99 that normally sells for $79.99 at Kmart at about noon.
Kmart has been open for more than 20 years on Thanksgiving Day. But the discount retailer tries to keep the edge on its competitors by opening earlier. People start lining up about 5:30 a.m. for vouchers. By the time the doors opened at the Western Boulevard store, there were about 30 people waiting, store employees said.
The vouchers are gold for shoppers. They guarantee the holder to one hot item or doorbuster. Among the most coveted deals was a Seiki 50 LED TV for $399.99, a $100 discount, and an Android 7 Tablet for $39.99.
Monica Cameron of Cary is against stores opening on Thanksgiving Day.
Its family time, she said. I think about the workers who have to be here.
During the past month, workers around the country have protested working the holidays. Some retailers have responded by offering increased pay to those who do work the day. Shoppers and workers do get the day off in Maine, Rhode Island and Massachusetts, because state laws dont allow most stores to be open Thanksgiving Day.
Even though she said Thanksgiving was family time, Cameron was at Kmart, and her cart was full of Christmas items.
I know its a contradiction, she said. But honestly, Im here because they were open, and I needed to buy a tree. Im single, and I have no kids. Its just me. If I was home visiting my family in Connecticut, there would be no shopping on Thanksgiving.
Decorating a tree was a fun activity Cameron planned for a visiting friend and her children.
Lining up deals
Another store opening Thursday morning was Old Navy, at 9 a.m.
Josephine Labib of Cary arrived at the Crossroads Plaza store with her teenage daughter at 8:58 a.m.
Labib used the early opening as a dry run. Cellphone in hand, she tried to calculate whether the discounts were good enough at 40 percent off or whether she should wait until Friday for items to be 50 percent off.
Im hoping to find a good deal and avoid the rush later, she said. If the difference is $5 to buy it now or wait in line for two hours to buy it later, Ill buy it now. And if I dont get it now, then I know where Im going to go when the store reopens. I can see where everything is.
With the stores opening earlier, lines began forming earlier. At Best Buy in Cary, Begad Arabien, 17, and Hazem Abuqalbain, 16, arrived at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday to pitch their tent and secure a place at the front of the line. Last year, Arabien spent Thanksgiving Day in line, starting at 7 a.m., waiting for the store to open on Black Friday.
Arabien, of Fuquay-Varina, said he wouldnt miss out on Thanksgiving. His family was bringing him food.
By about 11:30 a.m. Thursday, about 24 people were in line.
High School chemistry teacher Ythol Arul, 27, arrived about 8 a.m. He planned to spend his time grading papers. Arul was hoping to get a new 39 TV for his parents for $169.99.
They will be at the churchs pot luck, and I will be missing that, Arul said. But I think in the long run, because Im here for them, they will be appreciative.
Ramos: 919-460-2609; Twitter: @AlianaCaryNews