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Gephardt Gets It: Why is Black Friday starting so early?

By Bill Gephardt | Posted - Nov 22nd, 2012 @ 8:19am

SALT LAKE CITY — Black Friday is the biggest shopping day of the year. People have been camping out since last week in order to be first in line for the best deals.

So what happened to the 5 a.m. doorbusters? Why open at 8 or 9 p.m. on Thanksgiving night?

Big Box retailers like Target, Walmart, and Toys R Us said customers demanded Black Friday start even earlier, 8 p.m. in some cases. For some, that's not even enough time for the turkey to cool.

Duncan Mac Naughton of Walmart said, "Our customers said, ‘We want to come in early, and we want to go to bed early and shop early.' So, it's eating your Thanksgiving dinner, doing the dishes and then it's get some exercise at Walmart."

A survey from says that nearly one third of Americans think the post-Thanksgiving shopping rush is starting too soon this year. Some employees at Walmart have even threatened to walk off the job on Thursday night.

A Target employee who was asked to work Thanksgiving night, Casey St. Clair, put a petition online that has now gone viral.

"I have no problem with Black Friday," St. Clair said. "I just want it to stay on Friday."

The petition has gotten well over 200,000 signatures.

But what about here in Utah? For five years now, South Towne Mall has opened at midnight. And it's become a tradition of many families.

Alicia Rutledge, marketing manager for the mall, said, "The reason we've always done midnight is that it's driven by our retailers and by customers. Because every year we've had crowds of people that are here. They're ready to shop. They show up early, they get in line and they're really excited, even when it's cold outside."

Plenty of people have weighed in on our KSL TV Facebook page about Black Friday shopping. Some hate it. But we found some who are all for the late-night shopping.

"It's so fun to see because people really do enjoy it," Rutledge said. "They bring their whole family and they're here to shop."

In all, an estimated 147 million Americans will take advantage of Black Friday weekend sales. That's 4 percent more than last year.

And while some say the focus on Christmas shopping takes away from Thanksgiving's true meaning, hardcore shoppers like Miriam Santamaria say there's no better way to celebrate.

"We do it as a family, so we're not going to be away from our family. We bring our family into this crazy thing," she said.

All in all, retailers are just trying to make more money by making their biggest shopping day of the year last even longer. For many it's a holiday tradition just as special as unwrapping the presents on Christmas morning.

And with Thanksgiving this year falling on the earliest possible day it can be, you have an entire extra week to get your shopping done before Christmas, whether you do it tomorrow or late into December.

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