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‘Gray Thursday’ draws crowds in search of deals

By COURTNEY HESSLER

The Herald-Dispatch

BARBOURSVILLE, W.Va. — Another year, another Thanksgiving day spent searching for the area’s best bargains for hundreds of Tri-State area families.

Whitney Meadows pushes a full shopping cart at Toys R Us on Thursday at the Huntington Mall.
(Herald-Dispatch photo by Larry Butcher)

Consumers waited for hours at several businesses around the Huntington Mall in temperatures that hovered near the 30s to get the best deals at the location USA Today named as West Virginia’s best place to shop on Black Friday.

“Gray Thursday” grows each year as more brick-and-mortar stores open their doors earlier, in an effort to pick up sales from online retailers such as Amazon.

While Thanksgiving Day shopping might be seen as anti-family by some, shopper Sarah Boggs, 21, of Huntington, said she looked at the day as more of a “team-building exercise” for her family.

The inside of Barboursville’s Toys R Us was calm, peaceful and eerily quiet before the doors opened at 5 p.m. Thursday to a bustling crowd waiting outside. The store let shoppers in 50 at a time and the line continued to grow even past its opening time.

Last year’s hottest toy – Hatchimals – is back for another go. The toy involves interactive creatures living inside a large egg. To break out of their shells, the creatures need a little love and care from their owners. This year’s model has a two-in-one surprise.

This year, parents are also spending hours in line for Fingerlings, mini interactive robotic monkeys that cling to your finger.

For the more computer-savvy children with hopes of a science-based future, the fan-favorite Lego Boost Koolbox kit helps children assemble robots and introduce them to coding via an accompanying app.

Boggs said she was hoping to get the Koolbox for her niece as a subtle way to get her interested in a promising field.

“She doesn’t know she wants it yet,” she said. “But she will.”

Waiting outside of the Huntington Mall, Sarah Stony, 14, of Teays Valley, West Virginia, said she was with a group of friends just looking for some new clothes, and maybe a present to give on Christmas Day, while her aunt and mother look for the big deals on electronics.

“We might spy on them, too,” she said. “Just to make sure they’re getting the right stuff.”

According to WalletHub communications manager Diana Popa, Kohl’s and JCPenney are among the stores with top discounts of at least 62.8 percent. A Wallet Hub survey showed 33 percent of shoppers plan to spend more than $500 on holiday shopping in 2017, which is down from 37 percent last shopping season.

Still, an Associated Press report says with a jobless rate at a 17-year-low of 4.1 percent and consumer confidence stronger than it was last year, analysts project a healthier market in 2017. About 69 percent of Americans, or 164 million people, intend to shop at some point during the five-day period from Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday, according to a survey released by the National Retail Federation.

Walmart also got things going in the first minutes of Thursday with an online sales event that featured a range of deals from toys to TVs to slow cookers and Google Home mini gadgets.

“We are in good shape,” Greg Foran, CEO of Walmart’s U.S. division, told the AP.

The Huntington Mall planned to close its doors at 1 a.m. and reopen for Black Friday, Nov. 24, from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. On Saturday, Nov. 25, the mall will be open from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday, Nov. 26, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Black Friday will continue throughout the day, with Small Business Saturday following. Small Business Saturday was created in 2010 as a way for communities across America to support local businesses.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Follow reporter Courtney Hessler at Facebook.com/CHesslerHD and via Twitter @HesslerHD.

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