The streets were dark and empty at 5:30 a.m. in Burbank — except at Kmart, where a few dozen shoppers in hoodies, fleece and boots huddled against an exterior wall waiting to be let inside.
With a 6 a.m. opening time, the retailer is kicking off a nationwide Thanksgiving consumption frenzy. Except instead of turkey, Americans will be scrambling to pick up deeply discounted televisions, tablets and toys that in the past were only available on Black Friday.
Alta Dena manufacturing technician Shana Morrow, 44, is a 16-year veteran of the holiday shopping weekend. She normally hunts for bargains on pillows and blankets but showed up at Kmart this time hoping to grab a 7-inch Android tablet for $39.99 — more than half off its usual price.
"I'll be back home by 8 a.m., so I won't miss out on anything," she said of her early morning Thanksgiving jaunt. "It's like a high. I wouldn't even say it's about the savings for me."
After the doors opened, an orderly line of customers streamed inside, past massive Mas Navidad signs and pallets of $10 teddy bears. Christmas tunes wafted around the store to the beat of clicking shopping cart wheels. The lights above all 10 cash registers were turned on.
Within 15 minutes, Vanessa Mariscal and her sister Lizette had filled a cart with pink boxes containing a smorgasbord of Barbie and Monster High products. Mariscal, 31, clutched a new Wi-Fi equipped Leappad Ultra for her daughter.
At $149, the tablet wasn't discounted, but using her Kmart card would knock $20 off the price. Plus, Mariscal said, she was getting a buy-one-get-one-free deal on Leappad games.
"I might as well buy everything together," said the Home Depot sales associate.
Outside, dawn was breaking. Shelley Beals had served some 40 cinnamon and powdered sugar doughnuts from her Fry Girl food truck, which was parked at Kmart's doors.
The retailer, she said, had hired her to cater the shopping event. She didn't sleep Wednesday night and arrived at 3:15 a.m.
"They were paying pretty good money," Beals said. "Otherwise, we wouldn't have been working at all."