Holiday shoppers who gobbled down turkey, stuffing and pie Thanksgiving day headed out Thursday night to feast on markdowns and get a jump on their holiday shopping.
Shoppers at the Eastwood Mall took full advantage of retailers this year, pushing their openings to Thanksgiving evening instead of waiting until today, ''Black Friday,'' the official start of the holiday shopping season.
Brother and sister Thaddeus and Sheoni Walker of Warren went into the shopping scrum with a plan: One of them would stake a place in the checkout line and the other would shop. Their plan worked well - both had bags from Old Navy.
Tribune Chronicle photos / Ron Selak Jr.
Shoppers shuffle about the mall, which opened its doors for shopping at 8 p.m. Thanksgiving night. Four of the five large department stores and 30 aisle stores opened at 8 p.m. and the rest were set to open at midnight to start the holiday shopping season.
Their opinions, though, on Thanksgiving Day shopping were mixed. Thanksgiving, Thaddeus Walker said, should be reserved for family and Sheoni Walker, the early opportunity to cross off items and avoid the extreme hustle and bustle of Black Friday is welcome.
''I don't have to worry about the crowds,'' she said. The two had gotten to the mall early, before the crowd really set in.
Four of the five major department stores and 30 aisle stores opened to shoppers at 8 p.m., which is when the mall opened its doors. Mall-wide, stores were required to open at midnight.
The crowd, called ''fantastic'' by mall general manager Ken Kollar, was brisk early and only got larger as the clock got later. Another rush of shoppers was expected around midnight.
Shelly Pressell of Warren, shopping with her sister, Aimee Green, said she's always shopped on Black Friday and expects to be back today. She was drawn to Thursday's shopping because of the sales, especially the 50 percent off at Old Navy.
''I'm trying to get most of my Christmas shopping, the bulk of it done,'' she said.
Loaded with bags from Bath and Body Works, Nancy Miller of Fowler, shopping with and her daughters, Erica Courson of Gustavus and Nicole Casagrande of Fowler, said they've been shopping early for years, and prefer the thrill of midnight Black Friday shopping over Thanksgiving night.
''Thanksgiving is a holiday,'' Miller said. ''By golly, let it be a holiday.''
In the past few years, retailers, in addition to opening Thanksgiving night, also have pushed up discounting that used to be held back for Black Friday into early November, which has led retail experts to question whether the Thanksgiving openings will steal some of Black Friday's thunder.
A number of big chain stores, such as Walmart, opened for Thursday shoppers.
Last year, Thanksgiving openings took a bite out of Black Friday sales: $810 million last year, an increase of 55 percent from the previous year as more stores opened on the holiday, according to Chicago research firm ShopperTrak. But sales dropped 1.8 percent to $11.2 billion on Black Friday, though it still was the biggest shopping day last year.
Although Carol Lawrence was at the mall Thursday, she said she intends to shop today, too. Lawrence, of Niles, was the first in line to receive one of 2,500 tote bags that contained discount offers, coupons and in some bags, mall gift cards.
Lawrence started the line around 6:30 p.m. The totes were given away at 11:30 p.m.
''We'll be back probably at 5:30 in the morning to shop, then we usually shop until about eight o'clock at night,'' Lawrence said.
At Macy's, Denise Sertich, store vice president and manager, said the shoppers that came out were generally in a good mood. Traffic in the store was well and in fact, customers were waiting at both entrances to get inside before the doors opened.
Around the corner from Macy's, brothers Matthew and Douglas Bernadella, were the first in line outside GameStop. Douglas, who arrived at the store around 5 p.m., wanted the new PlayStation 4. Matthew was there to keep his brother company and keep his spot at the head of the line.
It was the brothers' first experience shopping like this. Both said it was better than they imagined.
''I was actually going to show up a little earlier, but I decided not to,'' Douglas Bernadella said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.