NEW YORK - Thousands rushed into Macy's flagship Herald Square store in Manhattan Thanksgiving night, ignoring critics who were against the department store chain's decision to break with tradition and open its stores on the holiday this year.
Terry Lundgren, CEO, president and chairman of Macy's estimated the crowd at 15,000 and told the Associated Press they had to open to compete with rivals who also opened on Thanksgiving. "We're a competitive group," Lundgren said, adding that "It''s very clear they [shoppers] want to be here at 8:00 pm."
Other large retailers such as Lord & Taylor, J.C. Penney, Sears and Walmart also opened on Thanksgiving in a bid to get an early start on the Christmas shopping season known in the U.S. as "Black Friday". The term “Black Friday” refers to the point in the year at which retailers begin to turn a profit or are “in the black”. Most stores remain open for extended hours and offer a variety of discounts.
Before Macy's opened, Emmanuel Gomez, a young man from Ghana who was standing in line since 6:00 pm said proudly that he had a game plan. "Every year, I [do] my shopping on Black Friday," he said, showing pictures on his smartphone of the items he came to buy. "So I plan for it and I never fail."
A pair of women from Eastern Europe said they were hoping for big discounts on winter coats – they waited in line for about two hours as well.
And Xiaoguang Zhu and Juewei Wang from Shanghai, China said they had only waited about 15 minutes. “I want to buy some shoes, leather [goods] too,” Zhu said. “And a Coach purse!” specified Wang as she positioned herself to hurry inside.
The scene inside the store was chaotic as shoppers scrambled for deals. Employees shepherded them in and handed out flyers advertising the best offers and "doorbusters". The line to get on the escalator was so long, that a store employee had to hold people back.
But was it worth it to leave the comforts of home to shop on Thanksgiving night? Retail analysts predicted bargains and customer service would be key. Analysts said U.S. consumer confidence is weak, due to increased taxes and high unemployment, and that customers are not spending as freely as in previous years.
Those factors didn’t seem to deter a couple from Venezuela who were first in line at the department store's 7th Avenue entrance. “We are hoping to find some huge discounts,” the husband said. The wife added that they hoped to land a deal on luggage.
At 8:30 pm, New Yorker Lisette Techeira, who was among the first inside was exiting – shopping bag in tow. “It’s bananas in there, it really is,” she said, describing the scene inside. “ I mean, I just got a stomach ache – I was going bonkers, I had to get out!” Techeira said she bought perfume for her mom then decided to get out due to the “pushing and shoving” inside.
Video: Lisette Techeira describes the scene inside Macy's