The holiday shopping season crept even earlier this year as major chain retailers pushed the start of their sales deeper into Thanksgiving. On Friday, though, several local shoppers said they still valued their holiday time at home over being first in line.
Early Friday afternoon, Kim Torres of Napa wheeled her cart out of the Target on Soscol Avenue laden with bags of purchases topped by a radio-controlled car for her son.
“I waited until an hour ago to come here,” she said, amiable and apparently well-rested. “I didn’t want to go to any 6 p.m. sales; even midnight is pushing it for me.”
“We always do Thanksgiving dinner at home and spend the whole evening together,” she said. “I had neighbors who did go to the sales, who moved dinner to lunch, and they were running around all day long trying to get their turkey done early — so they never really got to enjoy their Thanksgiving.”
Since the mid-2000s, Black Friday — so named because many retailers cross “into the black” on that day to profitability for the year — has served as the Thanksgiving weekend’s second act, as department stores have enticed holiday shoppers with steep, early-morning “doorbuster” price cuts.
Walmart, Target and the Napa Premium Outlets joined the retail industry’s move ever closer to the heart of Thanksgiving Day, launching their discount campaigns as early as 6 p.m. and encroaching into the time usually devoted to turkey dinners and football on the television.
But some Napans said Friday the progressively earlier openings risk a clash between cheaper holiday gifts and family time.
Outside the Soscol Avenue Target, Megan Mayer and Jonathan Short returned to their car with two air mattresses, a couple of DVDs and toys for children’s presents. Next on their list, they said, would be the Napa Walmart, the outlet mall and a GameStop store.
Their shopping trek had started the previous midnight at the Best Buy electronics emporium in Fairfield, yet another store to bend to the new normal of 6 p.m. Thanksgiving openings.
The engaged couple had decided to visit the sale after all, to buy a Samsung Galaxy Note 3 smartphone — but not until six hours into the sale, to preserve a full day and evening with their visiting relatives.
“We had Thanksgiving dinner and the family hanging around — and lots of birthdays,” said Mayer. “My mother and two cousins all had birthdays this week; that was 10 pies and three cakes!
“We held off; 6 o’clock is just way too early to shop on Thanksgiving Day.”
At Napa Premium Outlets on Freeway Drive, some shops took in their first customers at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving, and the entire center opened at midnight, according to Traci Gee, the center’s general manager.
But the head start over previous shopping seasons seemingly did little to dampen business the next day. At 1 in the afternoon, visitors still were waiting 15 minutes or more for scarce spaces at the ends of the parking lot, facing full-height window signs advertising 50-70 percent discounts at the Gap, clearance deals at J. Crew, even deals on pre-owned Rolex watches at a Kay Jewelers branch.
“I came to buy some stuff for Christmas, but ended up buying stuff for myself, mostly clothes,” said Claudia Rincon of Santa Rosa, who was visiting the outlet center with a friend in town. “Some pretty good sales there, though.”
Still, Rincon declared no amount of price trimming would have brought her to the outlets or any other mall on Thanksgiving night. And news of sporadic doorbuster scuffles elsewhere in the country made her even less likely to give up a part of her holiday.
“I thought about going out on Thursday, but I heard about (incidents at) the Walmarts and I was like, ‘No, I’m not gonna do that,’” she said.
Another Napa woman shopping at Target on Friday also described herself as a straggler to the Thanksgiving-night doorbusters, visiting Kohl’s and the Napa outlet mall hours after the first crush of discount hunters.
“I didn’t want to cut into Thanksgiving,” said Michelle Berg. “I was just getting movies and stuff, nothing that would cause a rush.”
“You see lines going out like this,” she added, drawing her hand out to the north end of the shopping center, “and I’m not into that. Who needs a new TV every single year — like, really? I don’t like sales getting that early; I’d never wait in line at 6 in the morning. Never.”