LIMA — Experts say the Thanksgiving shopping weekend will always be significant, but many shoppers came out in full force for retailer’s pre-Black Friday sales.
“The importance of Thanksgiving weekend to both retailers and consumers will never change,” National Retail Federation president and CEO Matthew Shay said in a statement. “However, retailers have already given consumers several good reasons to start their holiday shopping earlier.”
This year, shoppers have been “on the fence” about when to shop, he said.
More than half of shoppers started working on their lists in mid-November, according to the NRF.
“This year there seems to be more of an amp up to Black Friday,” said Betsy Billingsley, director of marketing and business development at The Lima Mall. She’s seen more traffic in the past two weeks than she did at the same time last year.
This early shopping trend didn’t go unexpected by retailers, as many of them started hiring extra seasonal employees even earlier than last year. Employees were hired for the holiday season in October this year, as opposed to in November last year, said Andrew Challenger, vice president at consulting firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas.
“The holiday hiring season has been moved up because companies are starting holiday sales before Thanksgiving,” he said.
At The Lima Mall, stores got stock in early and “everyone is well-stocked for the holiday,” Billingsley said. “There’s plenty of selection.”
The mall has also brought some holiday-only tenants in, she said. Carts that will sit in different areas of the mall for the holiday shopping season include Katie’s Beef Jerky, the Almond Shop, Papa Boyd’s (specialty popcorn), Hickory Farms and Country View Barns, Billingsley said.
The mall starts its preparation early, beginning to plan in July and bringing holiday tenants in in October, she said.
“People are shopping earlier,” Billingsley said.
Though, there are still great deals to come, Shay said.
“Thanksgiving weekend shopping has evolved tremendously over the past few years and can no longer be seen as the ‘start’ of the holiday season, though there’s no question it’s still important to millions of holiday shoppers and retailers of all shapes and sizes,” Shay said in a statement. “There is a real sea change happening in retail when it comes to the how, when, where and why of holiday shopping. Consumers today are looking for great prices and value-add promotions earlier than ever before, and retailers have answered these demands in several different ways already this holiday season.”
Holiday retail spending is expected to increase by 4.2 percent this year, according to an estimate from the Ohio Council of Retail Merchant’s 2015 Holiday Forecast of Ohio Retail Spending.
When it comes to what people are buying, it seems the most popular items will be clothes and accessories, according to the NRF, with six in 10 people buying those items. The next most popular items are books, CDs, DVDs and video games, then, toys.
Locally, popular items include winter outerwear, gift cards, electronics and statement jewelry, Billingsley said.
About 135.8 million shoppers will or may shop on Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Sunday, according to NRF’s Preliminary Thanksgiving Weekend Survey, a little less than last year.
“To make it even easier on holiday shoppers this year, we expect retailers will offer exclusive savings each day of the big weekend, including Thanksgiving and Black Friday-only deals and even extended Cyber Monday promotions throughout the week that follows,” Shay said in a statement. “But this weekend isn’t the end-all-be-all; it’s important to remember, there will be several important weekends to keep an eye on before we wrap up the holiday season.”
As shoppers flock to the Lima Mall this year, Billingsley said she expects there to be a trend of more planning.
“People are doing their homework,” she said. “(They) kind of map out what they’re going to be doing. We’ve seen increased usage on our website.”
More people are using coupons as well and planning where they’ll go, she said.
Most weekend shoppers will come out on Black Friday, according to NRF, though Billingsley said it seems that shopping on the actual Thanksgiving Day is becoming more of a tradition.
“I think we’re seeing more of the Thanksgiving shopping starting to become a tradition of sorts,” she said. “Groups of families … are all coming out.”
Reach Danae King at 567-242-0511 or on Twitter @DanaeKing.