- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 26, 2003

NEW YORK (AP) — For those who can’t wait, Thanksgiving Day is becoming more of an option to begin holiday gift buying — in between carving a turkey and diving into pumpkin pie.

While major toy retailers traditionally close their doors today, consumers can pick up a Barbie or two at grocers Albertson’s, which has partnered with Toys R Us, and Safeway, which has teamed with K-B Toys, as well as other supermarket chains that have recently aligned with major toy sellers.

For the first time, Sears, Roebuck and Co. — which along with most department stores goes dark on Thanksgiving — is giving online customers early access to tomorrow’s deals, allowing them to order on the Web today and then pick up the merchandise in the stores over the weekend.

Convenience store chain 7-Eleven, has increasingly added more — and more upscale — holiday gifts to its stores, most of which are open 24 hours a day. This year, consumers can find digital cameras, popular toys like Mighty Beanz, DVDs and “Cat in the Hat” figurines.

Kmart will offer 70 percent off both jewelry and shoes.

“It is becoming more accepted to shop on Thanksgiving, and stores are fulfilling the need,” said C. Britt Beemer, head of America’s Research Group in Charleston, S.C.

An increasing number of independent retailers in electronics and apparel have made Thanksgiving Day their season opener, and have had successes, Mr. Beemer said.

And a recent survey by ARG of 1,000 women found that about 19 percent were interested in shopping on the holiday, up from about 11 percent five years ago. Men still show little interest, with less than 3 percent saying they were keen on buying gifts on Thanksgiving.

The nation’s retailers are more optimistic about holiday sales this year than in the past few years amid signs of an improving economy and rebounding consumer confidence.

The Thanksgiving weekend is the traditional start to the shopping spree, but it no longer is the busiest period of the season.

In 2002, the busiest period was the last week before Christmas, accounting for 41 percent of holiday sales.

That’s up dramatically from 34 percent in 2001 and far more than the Thanksgiving weekend, which accounted for 10.1 percent of 2002 holiday sales, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers.

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