By The Daily News Staff
& The Associated Press
This year's Black Friday shoppers were split into two distinct groups: those who wanted to fall into a turkey-induced slumber and those who'd rather shop instead.
Local shoppers take advantage of Thanksgiving evening deals at Kmart in Iron Mountain on Thursday. Similar lines were seen throughout the Iron Mountain-Kingsford area this morning as local residents scooped up Black Friday bargains.
Stores typically open in the wee hours of the morning on the day after Thanksgiving that's named Black Friday because it's traditionally when retailers turn a profit for the year.
But after testing how shoppers would respond to earlier hours last year, some stores this year opened as early as Thanksgiving evening.
That led shoppers on a mission to find the best Black Friday deals to ask a difficult question: Deal with the crowds now or later?
Many area shoppers chose to shop sooner.
Local residents flocked Kmart, Walmart, and Walgreens in Iron Mountain, and Shopko in Kingsford on Thanksgiving for bargains on TVs, electronics and other Christmas gifts.
And they were at it again early this morning, with crowds at local retail centers in Iron Mountain-Kingsford before 6 a.m.
Local law enforcement officials from the Iron Mountain Police Department, Kingsford Public Safety Department, and Michigan State Police Iron Mountain post reported no problems with shoppers or traffic.
"So far, so good," said officials this morning.
According to an International Council of Shopping Centers-Goldman Sachs survey of 1,000 consumers conducted this month, about 17 percent planned to shop at stores that opened on Thanksgiving, up from 16 percent last year when retailers were testing the earlier hours. Meanwhile, 33 percent intended to shop on Black Friday, down one percentage point from last year. Overall, it's estimated that sales on Black Friday will be up 3.8 percent to $11.4 billion this year.
The earlier hours are an effort by stores to make shopping as convenient as possible for Americans, who they fear won't spend freely during the two-month holiday season in November and December because of economic uncertainty. Many shoppers are worried about high unemployment and a package of tax increases and spending cuts known as the "fiscal cliff" that will take effect in January unless Congress passes a budget deal by then. At the same time, Americans have grown more comfortable shopping on websites that offer cheap prices and the convenience of being able to buy something from smartphones, laptops and tablet computers from just about anywhere.
That's put added pressure on brick-and-mortar stores, which can make up to 40 percent of their annual revenue during the holiday shopping season, to give consumers a compelling reason to leave their homes. That's becoming more difficult: the National Retail Federation, an industry trade group, estimates that overall sales in November and December will rise 4.1 percent this year to $586.1 billion, or about flat with last year's growth. But the online part of that is expected to rise 15 percent to $68.4 billion, according to Forrester Research.
As a result, brick-and-mortar retailers have been trying everything they can to lure consumers into stores. Some stores tested the earlier hours last year, but this year more retailers opened their doors late on Thanksgiving or at midnight on Black Friday. In addition to expanding their hours, many also are offering free layaways and shipping, matching the cheaper prices of online rivals and updating their mobile shopping apps with more information.
"Every retailer wants to beat everyone else," said C. Britt Beemer, chairman of America's Research Group, a research firm based in Charleston, S.C. "Shoppers love it."