With a jazzy, uptempo Good King Wenceslas playing in the background, Carmen Maldonado left Macy’s on State Street Friday morning lugging two huge bags — and promising to return for more.
Maldonado, 45, of the West Loop, likes to transform her home for the holiday season. Typically, she heads to the outlet mall for her needs. This year, after two weeks of research, she said the deals are better at this department store.
She bought two seasonal comforters Friday morning, planned to drop them off at home and then come right back.
“It’s going to take me two weeks,” Maldonado said of her decorating blitz. “By the time I finish, it will be Christmas.”
Despite massive store closings and layoffs, Sears and Kmart stores attracted deal-crazed shoppers lined up by the hundreds, eager to save money on household items ranging from mixers to tools to washers-and-dryers.
The Sears store at Six Corners on Irving Park Road had 500 people lined up when it opened at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving — two hours earlier than the past two years — and those shoppers ran straight to the door-buster sales, said company spokeswoman Jamie Stein.
The hottest sellers were a KitchenAid mixer on sale for $199.99, regularly priced at $299.99; a Craftsman three-drawer “project” center for $99.99 — $50 off regular price — that came with a free drill, and Kenmore washers and dryers priced at 55 percent off, Stein said.
Shoppers at Kmart, including 100 lined up at the store in Des Plaines, ran for the Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 tablet computer sale-priced at $149.99, and a buy-one-pair, get one free shoe sale, she said.
Kmart has been open on Thanksgiving Day for 23 years; the chain pushed up the holiday opening to 6 a.m. on Thanksgiving morning for the past four years; families are known to run in to grab an extra tablecloth, blender or other last-minute item, Stein said.
As has been the case every year, electronics were among the biggest draws — though not everyone got what they wanted.
At the Best Buy on Michigan Avenue, at least one shopper left disappointed. Jean Weible and her husband, Tim Weible, were in town
for the weekend looking for Christmas gifts.
“Target is much better — better selection and prices are better,” she said.
But Thomas Gibbons, an 18-year-old student from England, couldn’t have been more delighted with the deal he got at Best Buy for a compact camera system, extra lens and case.
“It was half the price it would be in England,” Gibbons said.
As a veteran of the traditional rampaging Black Friday, Sonya Walker decided to do things differently this year. She strolled into the State Street Target about 6:30 a.m., avoiding the grabbing, swarming masses. It was a revelation.
“It was much more stress free,” said Walker, who lives on the North Side and works in customer service. “Last year, I went here and it was like pandemonium, it was horrible.”
The bargains — which included some sweaters, slippers and some electronics — were just as good after sunrise, Walker said.
Andrea Schwartz, a spokeswoman for the State Street Macy’s — despite being in the store since 4 a.m. — was still giddy about the traditional first day of the shopping season.
“We feel really good about this season here at Macy’s,” said Schwartz. “We feel we have the right merchandise. It’s good merchandise with a great value.”
Cosmetics gift packages and outdoor boots were among the “doorbusters” flying off the shelves, Schwartz said.
Parents at discount stores such as Wal-Mart zoned in on all things related to the hit movie “Frozen,” with the Disney Frozen Snow Glow Elsa dolls among the top sellers, spokespeople said.
Despite tablet and smart-phone popularity, shoppers still want their TV sets. Door-buster sales on TV sets were among the most popular in the stores at Sears and Target, with Sears reporting a run on 55-inch Westinghouse TVs.
Shoppers who wanted to avoid the cold and the crowds flocked to online deals, with PayPal reporting spikes in holiday-deal traffic between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day.
“It’s a matter of when consumers have the chance (to shop online) – between preparing the Thanksgiving meal and serving it, and being multi-taskers around tackling gift-giving,” said Pablo Rodriguez, head of global consumer initiatives at PayPal, which claims $1 of every $6 in e-commerce spending flows through PayPal.
Indeed, a poll that PayPal commissioned showed that 50 percent of shoppers who planned to go online for holiday shopping said they would be drinking alcohol while they did so, Rodriguez said.
Forrester Research forecasts online holiday sales for November and December will jump 13 percent from the year-ago period, to reach $89 billion this year.
Next up for die-hard shoppers are “Shop Local Saturday” and “Cyber Monday.”
The campaign on Saturday urges shoppers to do their holiday spending at locally owned businesses. Local First Chicago, a non-profit organization that supports keeping money in local communities, has posted retail specials at eatdrinkbuylocal.org.
On Monday, retailers offer their biggest holiday deals online. Wal-Mart announced on Friday a new “Evening Edition” of its Cyber Monday deals for people who cannot shop from work during the day. The evening deals give shoppers a second chance on specials such as a Samsung 55-inch high-definition TV set for $998, a $500 savings, and a PlayStation 4 Lego Batman and Little Big Planet console bundle for $449, a $189 savings, according to a Wal-Mart news release.
Britt Beemer, chairman of America’s Research Group, a Charleston, S.C.-based retail consulting firm, said Friday that his firm’s daily polling showed nine of 10 shoppers who said they would shop on Thanksgiving night actually did so — the highest percentage he has ever seen.
“Consumers are getting excited about saving on big purchases like TV sets,” Beemer said. “They are looking to save big bucks.”
Beemer predicts this year’s holiday sales will jump anywhere from 2.8 percent to 4 percent above last year’s; the National Retail Federation forecasts a 4.1 percent increase versus last holiday season’s 3.1 percent increase, and the International Council of Shopping Centers predicts a 4 percent jump from last holiday season.