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Doors bustin' as Thanksgiving shoppers find post-meal deals

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The staggered start to the holiday shopping season has begun.

The Pioneer Press is tracking reports from readers who are finding full parking lots and busy cash registers as stores open on Thanksgiving evening, getting the jump on the traditional start of the holiday shopping season.

Best Buy tweeted a picture of CEO Hubert Joly chatting with chilly customers who were standing in line at the Shakopee store. The St Cloud Times reported that hundreds of shoppers were queued up at the Best Buy outlet there, with the line of deal-seekers snaking more than halfway around the store.

The Pioneer Press reported Black Friday is arriving in waves, with many big box stores opening between 6 and 8 p.m. But even within retail centers, there are various start times. For example, about 50 stores at Rosedale are opening at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving. Another 40 or so open to deal seekers at midnight. The remainder will wait until Friday morning.

But stores working to lure early birds face a backlash. The Associated Press reported that some workers started petitions on change.org to protest against Target and Best Buy and there were other protests across the country from workers' groups against employees missing Thanksgiving at home. Stillwater Patch had numerous comments from readers who pledged not to hit the malls in the early openings. "The almighty dollar has become more important than family and tradition. I will not be shopping," one woman wrote.

Earlier this week, MPR provided some pre-game analysis of the season. The report said many mass merchants expect lukewarm sales during this crucial shopping season. Best Buy, Target and other major chains have lowered their profit outlooks.

Coming out of the recession, many consumers are more cautious with spending even though the jobless rate has fallen below five percent and the housing market has rebounded. A Gallup Poll forecasts a nearly 4 percent increase in holiday retails sales over last year, short of the 6 to 8 percent increases common in strong years but an improvement over the 2008 and 2009 seasons.

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