By MARK TODD and SHELLEY TERRY - Staff Writers
After putting down their dinner forks, some Ashtabula County shoppers could be dashing through the snow to their nearest big-box retailer.
Many of the nation’s biggest retailers are throwing open their doors today, hoping to convince people for forego another slice of pumpkin pie in favor of an early start to the Christmas shopping season. This on top of the infamous, pre-dawn Black Friday extravaganzas. Are you ready?
Some of the biggest names in merchandise are open today. Kmart leads the pack, welcoming shoppers at 6 a.m. — a full 12 hours after Walmart and Best Buy turn on their lights. Toys R Us opens at 5 p.m. today, while Target, Kohl’s, Sears and JC Penney will greet shoppers at 8 p.m.
So many people are expected at the big stores today and Friday that AAA East Central, based in Pittsburgh, has issued a list of tips for safely navigate parking lots. Some ideas: choose parking spots near side entrances instead of front doors, find a spot farther from the doors to avoid congestion and walk off calories, use headlights to be noticed by other drivers and —most importantly — don’t forget the car keys while hauling packages to and fro.
Local merchants, meanwhile, plan to observe the Thanksgiving holiday in its entirety. Ashtabula Towne Square is sticking to its policy of closing on Thanksgiving, allowing workers a day with family. The mall plans to open 12 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday, calling it midnight madness. If shoppers spend $150 during that time, they will receive a ticket for a drawing to win prizes, mall officials said.
A new store, the Ash/Craft Garden Shoppe will be opening Friday through Dec. 23 at the mall.
Beaches, a stalwart on Ashtabula’s historic Bridge Street, is also avoiding the frenzy, said Lorie Dalrymple, one of the owners. “We’ll keep it traditional,” she said, laughing.
Thanksgiving comes late this year, meaning a smaller-than-usual holiday shopping season. To compensate, some people have already walked through the doors, Dalrymple said. The big surge, however, should come this weekend, she said.
“We’ve seen a few (holiday shoppers),” Dalrymple said. “Not a whole lot. We expect a lot more this weekend.”
Early trends indicate local residents may be ready to spend a little more this season — at least more than 2012, Dalrymple said.
“Last year it was average,” she said. “People were cautious. This year I’m optimistic.”