Thursday-Night Openings Spark Brawls at Stores

The busiest day of the Christmas shopping season started earlier than ever this year, as eager buyers pursued bargains

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Paul J. Richards / AFP / Getty Images

Shoppers looking for a bargains shop during the Thanksgiving holiday on November 28, 2013, at the Toys-R-Us store in Fairfax, Virginia

Black Friday, usually the biggest shopping day of the year, came a day earlier this year as several large chains opened their doors on Thanksgiving day, despite worker protests. Macy’s opened on the holiday for the first time in their 155-year history. Toys “R” Us, Gap and Target — among other retailers — followed suit. It’s no surprise that shoppers, full of turkey and a hankering for bargains, turned some early openings into chaos.

A man in Virginia was stabbed during a squabble over a parking space next to a Walmart around 7 p.m. Thursday night, NBC reported. Two men were arrested after the incident. And a New Jersey man was arrested Thursday in a Walmart store, charged with aggravated assault on a police officer and disorderly conduct after arguing with a store employee over a TV, according to NBC. At a Walmart in Southern California, a police officer was injured trying to break up a melee after a manager decided to open his doors early.

A police officer answering an alleged shoplifting call at a Chicago area department store on Thanksgiving night shot a man who was dragging another police officer with his car, the Associated Press reports.

Romeoville Police Chief Mark Turvey says the police were called a Kohls store shortly after 10 p.m. “As the officers approached the front door, one of the two subjects ran out the door into the parking lot,” he says. The officer chased the man to his car. “The officer was struggling with the subject as he got into the car, and then the car started to move as the officer was partially inside the car. The officer was dragged quite some distance. He couldn’t get out.”

A backup officer fired two or three shots near the driver when he refused to stop, striking him once in the shoulder, authorities say. Both the officer and the driver are being treated at the hospital for shoulder injuries. Police arrested the driver, the passenger in the car and a third person still inside the store.

Despite injuries, the strategy of opening Thursday night appears to be a boon to retailers. About 15,000 shoppers lined up at Macy’s Herald Square location in New York City before the doors opened Thanksgiving eve, said Terry Lundgren, the CEO, president and chairman of the department store. Last year, the store only counted 11,000 customers who lined up before the standard Black Friday opening schedule.

It’s no surprise. As big-box stores like Walmart and Target have adopted Thursday openings over the past few years, sales routinely took a bite out of Black Friday profits. Thanksgiving Day purchases totaled $810 million last year, an increase of 55 percent from the past year, according to Chicago research firm ShopperTrak. But sales dropped 1.8 percent to $11.2 billion on Black Friday, even though it still was the biggest shopping day last year.

And customers don’t seem to mind shopping on the holiday. “Honestly if I can get a good deal, I do not mind,” Theresa Alcantaro, a 35-year-old woman waiting at a Target in Brooklyn with her son to buy an Xbox One on Thursday night told the Associated Press. “I see my family every day. They understand.” Alcantaro said she was missing a dinner that included 40 family members but that she’d meet up with them after shopping.

Green Bryant, the first in line at Toys “R” Us in Manhattan at 10 a.m. said that she planned to go home and cook Thanksgiving dinner that night after buying a dollhouse, Barbie doll and LeapFrog learning system on sale for her two children.

But several groups of workers have petitions on to protest against stores like Target and Best Buy forcing their employees to work the holiday and beginning sales earlier than usual, placing greater demands on workers. The Retail Action Project, a labor-based group of retail workers, says they plan on visiting stores like Gap and Victoria’s Secret in Manhattan on Black Friday to educate customers about the demands on workers.