For years, Thanksgiving has been all about turkey and football. But now, another Thanksgiving tradition is beginning to take shape — shopping.
Many stores in New Hampshire will be open tomorrow. Black Friday sales are starting early — on Thanksgiving.
Best Buy, Target, Wal-Mart and others will open in the early evening, but Kmart will be open at 6 a.m. tomorrow — and stay open for more than 40 consecutive hours.
“It’s one of my favorite days of the year,” said Allison Lee, 24, of Methuen. “It seems to get more and more intense every year.”
Lee and her sister, Stephanie, start at midnight and shop right through the morning.
“We’re usually done by about 11 a.m.,” Lee said. “It takes a lot of coffee, that’s for sure.”
While stores in New Hampshire are allowed to open tomorrow, different rules apply in Massachusetts where Black Friday begins — Friday. Massachusetts, Maine and Rhode Island are the only three states which require stores to stay closed on Thanksgiving.
At Best Buy in Salem, the doors will open on Thanksgiving for the first time. In previous years, they waited until midnight to open.
But people will be waiting in line well before that the store opens tomorrow.
“We expect people to start lining up around mid-afternoon (today),” said David St. Cyr, general manager of the Salem Best Buy.
But, St. Cyr said, the days of people rushing in when the door opens no longer exist.
“We give everyone in line a ticket and start letting a few people go in at a time in orderly fashion,” he said.
PlayStation 4 and XBox One video game systems are the most popular items this holiday season, he said, but Black Friday shoppers looking for those items could be disappointed.
“We don’t have any of the systems in stock right now,” he said. “We aren’t advertising them because we just don’t know what the availability will be.”
For April Dobrinski of Derry, the first stop will be Toys “R” Us or Wal-Mart.
“You have to have a plan,” she said. “Each year, we will map out all of the stores that we’re going to go to.”
Dobrinski said Black Friday shopping has become part of her family’s Thanksgiving tradition.
“We’ll eat a Thanksgiving dinner together, and the men will stay at home and watch the kids, while the women go shopping,” she said.
Lee said her and her sister’s boyfriends have asked to go shopping with them, but they’ve been shut out.
“This is just for the two of us,” she said. “It’s a me and my sister thing.”
Not everyone is a fan of Thanksgiving shopping.
“I think it’s inappropriate,” said Mary Birdsall of Atkinson. “Thanksgiving should be a time for families to be together. I don’t think people should have to be working on Thanksgiving.”
Jim Craig, the commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Labor, said he is not an advocate for stores opening during the holidays, but there is nothing he can do about it.
“As long as they’re getting paid, it’s legal,” Craig said. “There isn’t anything we can do. Unfortunately, that’s where our country is heading.”
He said his department had received no complaints from employees who have to work tomorrow.
St. Cyr said his employees had mixed feelings about opening at 6 p.m. on the holiday.
“Some were very excited because we had never done that before,” he said. “But we want to make sure we had a full understanding and compassion for our employees. We will be feeding them and giving them plenty of treats throughout the day.”
Surprisingly, he said, most people wanted to work.
“It helps that they will be getting paid time and a half because it’s a holiday,” he said.
Nancy Kyle, president of the New Hampshire Retail and Merchants Association, said criticism of stores opening on Thanksgiving is overblown.
“People have their meal and go out afterward,” Kyle said. “ It can definitely be a way to walk off some of the food you just ate. too.”
She said she expects this year’s Black Friday to have unusually good sales.
“This is the shortest amount of time there can be between Thanksgiving and Christmas,” she said. “It’s already less than four weeks away.”
Allison Lee said the majority of her shopping is about Christmas gifts for others.
“We save just for this,” she said. “The rest of the year is for ourselves, but this is all about getting things for others.”
Lee said she relies on Dunkin’ Donuts to get her through the morning.
Dobrinski and her relatives end the night with a special treat.
“We will go to Mary Ann’s Diner at about 3 a.m.,” she said.
The Derry diner usually opens at 6 a.m., but on Black Friday will open at 2 a.m.
“It started off as just a joke, people wishing we were open during Black Friday,” said Christina Andreoli, one of the restaurant’s owners. “But one year, we decided to try it.”
This will be the third year the restaurant is opening that early. In 2011, they got a decent crowd, but it doubled last year. This year, Andreoli expects it to be even bigger.
“We hope it becomes part of everyone’s Black Friday traditions,” she said.