Friday, Nov. 26, 2010 | 7:29 a.m.
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Las Vegas Best Buy
Las Vegas Walmart
With savings on their minds, Las Vegans bundled up this morning and braved the coldest morning of the season to catch some of the earliest Black Friday deals the valley had to offer.
Some stores opened Thanksgiving morning and won’t close their doors until Friday evening, pulling an all-nighter. Most retailers opened their doors to waiting crowds at some point between 10 p.m. Thursday and 5 a.m. Friday, many of them offering some of the deepest discounts of the year.
Jeff Kalish, 39, and Diane Ambrose, 32, were among hundreds still waiting at midnight to enter Toys R Us, 1425 W. Sunset Road in Henderson, two hours after the store had opened. They were out for their first early Black Friday, Kalish said, shopping for their kids.
At the top of the list was cashing in on a deal for Transformers toys and picking up a remote-controlled truck, Ambrose said. They had done their homework: They planned to grab a $12 remote-controlled truck on sale instead of the $49 one their son had asked for.
“We’re going to get something that fits our budget. It’s crucial,” Kalish said, and the less expensive truck “is still going to do the same things.”
Ambrose said she clipped coupons and researched sales in the past week.
“I’ve never done any of that before,” she said. She and Kalish planned to spend $400 during Black Friday, about on par with last year, although they intended to spread it among more gifts.
Toys R Us, which drew in shoppers with 50 percent discounts on such toys as Buzz Lightyear and Barbies, was counting on getting an extra boost by being open 24 hours straight, ending at 10 p.m. Friday night.
All eyes will be on consumers’ spending this holiday season. The National Retail Federation projects an increase of 4.3 percent over last year’s sales during the last two months of the year. Las Vegas will try to recover from a two-year slump: sales in November and December dropped to $4.9 billion in 2009 after an all-time high of $6.3 billion in 2007.
According to the National Retail Federation, more than 140 million people -- almost half of the country -- will do at least some of their holiday shopping on Thursday and Friday.
Many stores continued the growing trend of opening Thursday night and staying open through Friday. At Las Vegas Premium Outlets, 875 South Grand Central Parkway, more than half of its 150-plus stores were open by 10 p.m. Thursday, said Alexandra Goranson, marketing director for the outlet mall.
Now in its fourth year, the mall’s “Midnight Madness” event has grown every Thanksgiving, Goranson said. Almost every store -- from Coach and The Children’s Store to Starbucks and Polo Ralph Lauren -- had lines Thursday night.
“It helps with the flow of traffic,” she said. “People definitely make an outing out of it … and everybody is looking for a bargain these days.”
Greg and Wanda Van Ginkel, hailing from Saskatchewan, Canada, stood outside Ed Hardy before its 10 p.m. Thursday opening. Taking in America’s unique shopping holiday for the first time, Greg admitted they were a little overwhelmed.
The pair decided to go out on a whim, but they had a list of their own.
“We’re looking for T-shirts and hoodies for people back home,” Wanda said. “It seemed like a good opportunity.”
Outside Coach, a line of more than 200 people wrapped around the mall’s sidewalk as they waited for the store’s midnight opening. Some shoppers stopped at other stores before bucking down for the wait in chilly temperatures.
Holli Wallace, 31, and Stephanie Brooks, 26, said they arrived at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, equipped with blankets and lawn chairs, and earned a spot near the front of the line. First on their agenda was a new purse.
“We’re being selfish,” Wallace said with a laugh. They also planned to check out other stores, many of which offered discounts from 40 to 75 percent.
Brooks said she had between $200 and $300 to spend Thursday night, about the same as last year.
Thanksgiving weekend is huge for retailers. In recent years, so-called Black Friday has been the busiest shopping day of the year, according to data from research firm ShopperTrak. But it doesn't necessarily provide a complete forecast of holiday sales. In fact, shoppers seem to be procrastinating more every year, so the fate of the holiday season is increasingly down to the last few days before Christmas.
Retailers do study buying patterns for the weekend to discern shoppers' mindset. This year, that means taking the measure on their willingness to spend just a little bit more.
Last year, the Thanksgiving shopping weekend accounted for 12.3 percent of overall holiday revenue, according to ShopperTrak. Black Friday made up about half of that.
In addition to discounts, retailers were offering other incentives to encourage spending. General Growth, which owns the Fashion Show, Meadows and Boulevard malls and the Shoppes at the Palazzo and Grand Canal Shoppes at the Venetian was offering $10 gift cards on Black Friday to those who spend $100 before noon at its malls.
Other retailers opened their doors just before dawn Friday morning.
At Best Buy, 3820 S. Maryland Parkway near the Boulevard Mall, a line of police cars made the store’s entrance look more like a crime scene than a holiday shopping mecca. Hundreds of people waited patiently until the store let them in at 5 a.m.
Kevin Shields, general manager for the Best Buy store, said he couldn’t discuss specific sales figures, but he does expect the location to see an improvement over last year’s numbers during the holiday shopping season.
“We hope to sell a whole lot of stuff,” Shields said as he ushered in a steady stream of customers, with tickets for hot items in hand.
Keith Countis, 34, arrived with his wife, Nicole, at 11:45 p.m. Wednesday – more than five hours before the store opened – to secure a spot toward the front of the line. Cloaked in matching ski jackets, they were among the first 10 in line.
Countis had a bright green ticket for a Sony Vaio laptop for $500, a 30 percent discount.
Although he thought the crowd looked a little smaller than last year, Countis said deals were plentiful, and he hoped his fellow consumers would do their part to turn the economy around.
“You’ve got to go out and spend,” he said. “If you don’t, nothing is going to change.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.