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Thanksgiving shoppers get a jump on Black Friday

While most people were watching TV, cleaning up or napping Thursday afternoon, a few serious shoppers were getting an early jump on today's shop-a-thon.

It wasn't the madhouse that is Black Friday — Towne East Square was eerily empty except for a modest stream of shoppers headed for Old Navy and Journeys. Other stores open on Thanksgiving were busy, but not mobbed.

Shoppers said they were out on Thanksgiving to reduce the number of stores they have to visit on Black Friday. By going Thursday, they could cross a few stops off their list.

Sears, Kmart, Big Lots, Gap, Old Navy, Banana Republic, Walgreens, Gander Mountain and Michael's stores were among those open Thursday.

The lengthening of Black Friday into multiple days mirrors the effort by many national chains to encourage an earlier and longer shopping season.

It may be paying off. National retail groups are forecasting at least a 3 percent increase in holiday sales. And Wichita merchants say the holiday season so far has been slightly better than last year.

Patti Nichols of Wichita, who was shopping at Old Navy with her daughter, had just finished Thanksgiving dinner. Shopping replaced her normal post-dinner activity: going through the newspaper ads for deals and planning their Friday shopping route.

"This is the place that's open, so I came to get this done," Nichols said.

Having some stores lengthen out Black Friday was a real help, she said. She and her daughter were going to Wal-Mart at midnight for the start of Black Friday and planned to hit more stores early today —"but I'll never go to Best Buy or Toys R Us," she said. "They are too busy."

Toys R Us was technically open on Thursday, opening its doors at 10 p.m. for shoppers not willing to get up in the early morning.

Toys R Us said the company decided to open at 10 p.m. because reaction was so positive to the stores' midnight opening last year. Before that, stores opened at 5 a.m. on Friday.

That move by Toys 'R Us certainly got the attention of Dominic Hutton of Wichita.

Hutton was at Old Navy Thursday looking at the items for sale, but he said his biggest stop of the weekend would be Toy 'R Us on Thursday night.

"That will allow me to relax a bit tomorrow," he said.

At Kmart, many of the shoppers were shopping for necessities, but others were getting in some early Christmas shopping.

Mark Coxand Sarah Dannels had just finished eating Thanksgiving out, then headed over to the store.

"I didn't know where we were going until we got here," joked Cox.

Dannels said their budget had been too tight to do much holiday shopping in recent years, but finances felt a little easier this year.

Even so, she said, "we came because the items were on sale."

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