STATE – Thanksgiving is just a few days away, followed by Black Friday, the official start of the holiday shopping season. However, this year the shopping landscape is changing. The number of retailers open on Thanksgiving is growing. Shop doors are opening earlier than ever, some at Thanksgiving dinner time (6 p.m.) and others continuing throughout the night and early hours of Black Friday morning. Before, during or after Black Friday, AAA urges shoppers to use caution when out bargain hunting, especially in dark parking lots and garages.
“Whether it’s the thrill of holiday shopping hustle and bustle, the hunt for the ultimate gift deal, or panic that there are six fewer shopping days this season, holiday shopping should not come at the expense of safety,” said Tracy Noble, spokesperson for AAA Mid-Atlantic. “This year more retailers are opening earlier than ever before (nearly a dozen major chains), just after dinner on Thanksgiving night, and others will open before daybreak on Black Friday. AAA advises shoppers to be aware of their surroundings, especially in dark parking lots, and stay alert while out and about.”
According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), more than 88 million consumers shopped online and in-stores on Black Friday last year and more than 35 million consumers shopped on Thanksgiving Day. And the shopping crowds could grow before the turkey gets cold, with many more retailers opening their doors on Turkey Day. Stores that will open on Thanksgiving include: Target, Wal-Mart, Sears, Kmart, Macy’s, Kohl’s, J.C. Penney, Toys R Us and Best Buy, as reported by the Associated Press.
AAA Mid-Atlantic also reminds shoppers to pack their patience when navigating through crowded parking lots and garages. Careless and inattentive driving in these tight areas could result in additional holiday expenses, including fender-benders, personal injuries and a general Grinch-like attitude.
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, about 20 percent of all vehicle collisions that result in damage claims occur in parking lots. “You’ll have plenty of company this weekend and all season long, regardless of where you choose to shop,” Noble said. “Let your holiday goodwill extend to your fellow drivers. This should make the experience more enjoyable and crash-free.”
AAA Mid-Atlantic tips for driving and parking during holiday shopping:
- Stay on guard in parking lots. Pay attention to where you park, note parking lot signs and markers. Use your smartphone to take a photo of where you parked. Choose a well-lit area to park during early morning hours and at night. When returning to your vehicle, have keys ready in hand and check the car’s interior before entering, using a penlight at night. Report suspicious people or cars.
- See and be seen. Use your headlights when scouring parking garages for spaces, even during the day. Avoid parking between a pair of tall SUVs or minivans where it might be hard for you to back out of the space.
- Stay on track and alert. Pedestrians should use walkways and crosswalks, if available. If walking in traffic lanes is unavoidable, be alert for cues – including exhaust or reverse lights – that signal a vehicle is about to pull out. When behind the wheel, always be on the lookout for pedestrians especially the distracted type and small children. In busy parking lots, it can be difficult to see small children who may make quick, unpredictable movements.
- Head for the side door. Many shoppers want to park near their favorite stores or near the mall entrance. Most malls have secondary entrances on the sides and those entrances usually have less traffic and additional convenient spaces.
- Play the outfield. Outlying areas normally have more open spaces, lighter traffic and a lower risk of collision. Plus, it doesn’t hurt to walk off the holiday treats. In some cases, however, those spaces may not be as secure so be aware of the risks.
- Thieves like to window shop. Place all shopping bags and valuables in the trunk, including the GPS units and their mounts. It takes a thief just seconds to smash a window and steal your shopping loot.
- Shop Online. Avoid the crowds and take advantage of special online promotions.
AAA Mid-Atlantic, serves nearly four million members in parts of New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Virginia, and throughout Delaware, Maryland and the District of Columbia, and is on the web at aaa.com/community.
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