NEW YORK – For those who don't want to sit around all day on Thanksgiving devouring stuffing and turkey, there are plenty of alternatives for shoppers to get a heads up on their Christmas shopping.
Toy retailers such as Toys R Us Inc. and other major department stores are closed on the holiday, but consumers can find gifts at other stores that are staying open and online.
"I think in general, stores are making a bigger push for the total weekend, starting from Thursday through Monday," said Michelle Bogan, a retail strategist at Kurt Salmon Associates.
She noted that Thursday had "always been a protected day, a day that people spend with family." But she noted, that with consumers starved for time, "retailers are starting to realize it is a great time to draw people into the stores. Customers are excited to have another alternative."
Gifts also can be found at grocery stores and convenience outlets such as 7-Eleven Inc., which traditionally stay open.
This season, 7-Eleven has further expanded its offerings in gifts, including DVDs from popular movies such as "War of the Worlds" and $29.99 prepaid wireless handsets from Virgin Mobile.
"Every year, we constantly refine our product mix," said Margaret Chabris, a spokeswoman for Dallas-based 7-Eleven, which has doubled the number of stores that carries gift cards. It also has doubled the number of gift cards from different store brands, which now include Circuit City Stores Inc., Blockbuster Inc., J.C. Penney Co. Inc. and Lowe's Cos.
In the online world, Sears, Roebuck and Co. and Wal-Mart will again be aggressive in courting Thanksgiving Day shoppers.
For the third season in a row, Sears is giving customers early access to Friday's deals, allowing them to order on the Web on Thursday, and then pick up merchandise in the stores over the weekend.
Wal-Mart again promoted its online shopping earlier this year by offering discounts, including cashmere throws under $60 and silk pajamas, priced under $30, for the five days through Black Friday. Customers also can preview Friday's early bird specials in the stores on Walmart.com.
As the nation gears up for what is considered the official start of the holiday shopping season on Friday, the collective consumer mood has been uplifted by falling energy prices. But retailers are still being aggressive when it comes to discounting, and want shoppers to buy early.
Last year, the busiest shopping day was Saturday, Dec. 18, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers. The day after Thanksgiving was the second busiest day.