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Shoppers skip Thanksgiving to find pre-Black Friday deals

Brenda Vazquez, 27, and her husband, Jose Rangel, 32, of Edgewater, came downtown for the Thanksgiving Day Parade and were surprised to find State Street stores open, so they decided to do some shopping. | Maudlyne Ihejirika/Sun-Times

Brenda Vazquez and her husband were up with the sun, not to prepare for dinner and family, but to get downtown before the 8 a.m. start of the 82nd annual McDonald’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Over by noon, the parade left the Edgewater couple looking for restrooms, only to realize State Street stores were open and offering pre-Black Friday deals on Thursday.

“We were going to head home, but Old Navy was offering 50 percent off everything. We decided to stay because on some other day, we are not going to find these prices,” said Vazquez, 27, hauling several bags after hours of shopping with her bedraggled husband Jose Rangel.

“No more. I’m starving right now,” said Rangel, 32. “I’m definitely not doing any more shopping. Well, not until, maybe tomorrow.”

The couple were among the hardiest of shoppers who either skipped the traditional day at home with family and turkey, or quickly refrigerated leftovers so they could head out seeking early Christmas shopping bargains.

Each year it seems retailers keep pushing Black Friday up earlier and earlier. Across the city and suburbs, Best Buy, Kmart, Kohl’s, Macy’s, Target and Wal-Mart, among other stores, were set to open Thursday evening. Other stores were already open by noon, including many in downtown Chicago.

Judy Ajlumi, 55, and her daughter, Allison Ajlumi, 25, are visiting from Detroit. They had been shopping for hours on the Magnificent Mile, and their car already was filled to the brim by mid-afternoon. | Maudlyne Ihejirika/Sun-Times

Judy and Allison Ajlumi, a mother and daughter visiting from Detroit, had shopped for hours on the Magnificent Mile, their car stuffed to the brim by mid-afternoon.

“We’re on family vacation, and the boys are watching the Lions game. So of course we’re going to shop,” Judy Ajlumi, 55, said as they exited Topshop. “But we’re also taking in every ounce of the architecture and the arts.”

“At this point, it’s not real shopping,” said her 25-year-old daughter, defending their continuing search for open stores. “We’re not like buying anymore. We’re just here to like embrace and see it all.”

Experts forecast retailers are in for decent profits this holiday season, with up to 4 percent sales growth projections. Nearly 60 percent of holiday shoppers had already started their Christmas shopping by Nov. 10, according to the National Retail Federation.

Shoppers found Topshop the only store open on the block across from the Water Tower on the Magnificent Mile. | Maudlyne Ihejirika/Sun-Times

According to the federation, an estimated 135.8 million people are planning to shop between Thanksgiving and Sunday.

One shopper on the Magnificent Mile saw no problem with the upward creep of the shopping season.

“It just seems that as the country evolves, that’s just the trend. I don’t think it’s a good or bad thing. I think whatever people decide to do is OK,” said a 47-year-old gentleman named Dennis, who declined to give his last name.

However, “this is getting heavy,” he said of the bags he was carrying for his wife, who was ensconced in a store.

A State Street shopper was quick to emphasize that he wasn’t shopping, despite the telltale shopping bag.

“I’m not shopping until Black Friday. But I’m here for 12 days for a medical congress, and I had to buy some socks because I forget them,” said Guilherme Rego, 28, of Brazil. “I’m heading home for dinner now at the hostel.”

Shoppers lined up Thanksgiving afternoon at the Best Buy at Roosevelt and Canal in the South Loop. | Maudlyne Ihejirika/Sun-Times

Still, others who cut short their Thanksgiving celebrations did so not to hit stores already open but to stand in line for door busters from stores opening that evening. At the Best Buy on Roosevelt and Canal, the line stretched around the corner by 3 p.m.

“It’s the only time of year to shop. We’ve been out here since 6 a.m.,” said Donna Karran, 35, of Bronzeville, fifth in line with her husband, Robert Sims, 29. “We leave, come back, leave, come back, because it doesn’t make sense for all of us to sit out here all day.”

The couple tag-teamed with relatives. After dinner and a nap, they were coming back for the long haul. Karran had her eye on a cellphone; her husband, on a TV.

“I come for the TV’s baby — 50 inches, $150,” Sims said. “That’s an amazing deal, and the only thing that could get me standing out here since 6 a.m.”

But even though Karran was excited about the bargains, she was not pleased about cutting short Thanksgiving Day.

“I think it’s really odd the stores have turned Thursday into Black Friday, because it like really breaks our holiday up,” she said. “They know we’re going to come out regardless. Why not leave it to Friday? It’s not right.”

Donna Karran, 35, and husband Robert Sims, 29, were fifth in line at the Best Buy on Roosevelt and Canal in the South Loop, after getting there at 6 a.m. and tag-teaming all day with relatives. | Maudlyne Ihejirika/Sun-Times