EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

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November 30, 2013

Holiday shopping off to a brisk start

Sales expected to be up 3.9 percent from last year, to $602 billion

While most were getting ready to have desserts with their family on Thanksgiving, Krystal Townsend of North Andover was getting ready to work the busiest weekend in retail.

“I wasn’t that excited about leaving my family early, but that’s life in retail for you,” she said.

More than a dozen major U.S. retailers stayed open for 24 hours or more on Thanksgiving Day through Black Friday, and crowds formed early and often over the two days, many continuing to shop yesterday, into today.

Townsend, who’s employed at a Nashua at a retail chain, worked 5:45 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. on Thanksgiving — starting from the moment she arrived.

“There was a line outside the door when I pulled up and it was crazy busy more than last year. We had some long lines for a few hours,” she said.

This year may cement the transformation of the start of the holiday shopping season into a two-day affair.

Black Friday, the official start of the shopping season between Thanksgiving and Christmas, originally was named that because it was when retailers turned a profit, or moved out of the red and into the black. Retailers opened early and offered deep discounts.

But in the past few years, store chains have been opening on Thanksgiving, and it’s making a dent in Black Friday sales. Shoppers spent $9.74 billion on Black Friday, a drop of 13.2 percent compared with last year, according to data released on Saturday by research firm ShopperTrak.

The decline appears to show that more Americans shopped on the holiday itself: Combined spending on Thanksgiving and Black Friday, which had been considered the official start to the holiday buying season until this year, rose 2.3 percent to $12.3 billion.

The data reflects that Thanksgiving, which along with Christmas was one of two days a year that most stores were closed, is becoming an important day for major retailers.

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