New T-Day tradition? Turkey, football -- and shopping

November 25, 2010 (CHICAGO)

"We're here to shop and just enjoy ourselves, something we do every year. Something we enjoy doing every year," said Roberta Mayes.

"I wanted to get in early, spend time with the kids later and come back out later on tonight [to] start it up again," said Latecia Johnson.

Kmart opened at 5 a.m. Thursday to eager shoppers ready to spend. For the first time in the company's history, Sears also opened on Thanksgiving- for a half day.

"The great deals that we offer with our Black Friday now specials I kind a knew today would be great," said Samer Natour, Sears GM.

Shoppers had a little bit more space and time Thursday to make their purchases, which seems to be the draw of Thanksgiving Day shopping.

"A lot of people are really thinking about not splurging and actually getting, buying gifts that are more considerate," said Arturo Angel, Leo J. Shapiro and Associates. He says consumers are developing more thoughtful criteria when it comes to gifts.

"They're really making sure that it makes sense-- both from a financial perspective and also to the person you give the gift to, that it makes sense," said Angel.

With consumers being cautious it's no surprise there are more retailers open on Thanksgiving. On Michigan Avenue, this is the third Thanksgiving the Gap has been open on the holiday.

"It seems like everyone wants to know what's on promotion. We do have a lot of great promotions 10, 20, 30 dollars. Everybody is really excited for that," said Jeff Kohl, Gap, senior customer manager.

"It's very convenient. There's no lines and there's still great deals and discounts and sales so it's very convenient for me," said Zhanna Sadrina.

For financial analyst, today is a perfect day to shop. She says being open today appeals to a diverse audience.

"A lot of people who do not celebrate Thanksgiving. I'm a Hindu so Thanksgiving is really not my festival. To me it is just another holiday so I might come out for shopping, so it's good business sense for those people," said Rema Upadhyay.

The calm crowds won't last. Black Friday will be one of the busiest shopping days of the year.

Police crack down on illegal parking

For anyone driving to Chicago-area malls, the Illinois secretary of state has issued a warning: Police will be cracking down on drivers who park illegally in spaces reserved for people with disabilities.

The fine for parking in an accessible parking space without a parking placard or disability license plates can be as much $350.

"It's a violation of all laws of human decency for you to be able-bodied, but you want to take advantage of a space that's been set aside for someone who's truly disabled," said Illinois Sec. of State Jesse White.

Holiday shopping tips

The city of Chicago's Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection is also offering tips for holiday shoppers: Be sure to check store return policies, keep those receipts, and check on any restocking fees.

For shoppers who purchase gift cards, the state of Illinois has a few rules to follow when using them.

"Gift cards can have an expiration date, but the expiration date cannot be less than five years from the date of purchase," said Business Affairs and Consumer Protectio Cmsr, Norma Reyes. "Issuers of gift cards are not allowed to reduce the value of the card or charge a fee for not using the card immediately."

Those rules do not apply to gift cards that can be used at multiple retailers, such as Visa and American Express cards.

To lure shoppers, many stores are offering bargain prices. Retailers say they are optimistic about the sales outlook for the holiday season.

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