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Thanksgiving turns from family to shopping day

A few years ago, Thanksgiving wasn't a day for retail. It was a day to cook, eat and lie stuffed to the gills, dozing in and out of back-to-back football games.

But some retailers have begun opening their doors on the holiday and netting a good number of shoppers.

Though it was nothing compared to today's shopping offensive, known by some as "Black Friday," a few early-morning shoppers were lined up Thursday waiting for the doors to open at stores like Kmart and Sears Grand.

Some shoppers felt it was a good day to peruse the aisles for Christmas presents as well as bring children while avoiding the crush of Black Friday.

West Valley resident Sherry Ellingsworth even got her husband to accompany her, since the crowds weren't as dense as those anticipated today.

Kmart has been open on Thanksgiving for more than eight years now, but Sears Grand at Jordan Landing is using this year as an experiment.

"This is our first year being open on Thanksgiving," Sears Grand spokeswoman Debbie Severance said. "There are people that shop at other stores, and we were just looking to take some of the market share out."

Ellingsworth said it is her first year shopping on Thanksgiving, and she looked at it as a double bonus: good sales, no big crowds.

"I am surprised anything was open, but I am glad it is," Ellingsworth said.

Taylorsville resident Judy Howes said this was her first year to visit the stores on Thanksgiving, and it was easy getting in and out. She just wanted to make a last-minute run because she plans to stay away from the stores today.

"I never shop the day after Thanksgiving — I don't like crowds," Howes said. "I would rather pay full price."

Though most shoppers described the crowds as mild on Thanksgiving, Kmart store manager Bob Hatch said profits are still double that of a normal Saturday. And Thanksgiving Day is kind of used as a dress rehearsal for today's hordes.

"There is no way to mentally prepare for it if you haven't been through it," Hatch said. "We just tell (the new associates) it is nothing they have ever seen before — you are running the whole time with no time to rest, and when you get home you feel like you have worked two shifts."

Still, he said, some employees look at it more as an event than a normal day of work, and for some it is a little exciting. Both Kmart and Sears Grand provide their employees with free lunch to ease their holiday shifts.

Severance said it is a day they try to make fun for employees.

"Well, it's never really fun that day — it's a lot of work — but the whole year kind of comes down to (this) day in retail," Severance said.

Even though Ellingsworth got some good deals on Thursday, she still planned to line up with the shopping mob at 5 a.m. today.

"I think it's fun — it's part of the Christmas season," she said, "and besides that, I always get really good deals."