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Shoppers brave cold for Thanksgiving bargains

Greg Feldman of Iowa City was grateful not only for the Thanksgiving feast he had Thursday, but also for the open Kmart on Hickman Road.

"I was here at 9 a.m. this morning for a less glamorous reason," said Feldman during his second trip to the store. He was buying equipment to fix the toilet at his mother-in-law's house.

His repeat appearance was to shop for boots and snowpants with his sister-in-law, brother-in-law and niece from Chicago. The unexpected snow left the group unprepared for outside activities.

"We were thankful that Kmart was open all day," said Jeremy Glenn.

With their Thanksgiving meals finished, shoppers eager to get a jump on their holiday shopping braved Thursday's deep-freeze to nab bargains ranging from 50-percent-off sales to limited-time discounts on big-screen televisions, clothes, video games and more at area shopping malls and big-box stores.

Thursday marked the official start of the holiday shopping season. More retailers opened their doors earlier with doorbuster sales in an effort to bring in more shoppers on Thanksgiving.

The National Retail Federation expects that consumers will spend $617 billion this holiday season, a 4.1 percent increase over last year.

Most people plan to shop at discount and department stores, according to the retail federation, with a growing number looking to fill out their gift lists online.

Cing Mang of Clive was shopping for children's clothes at Kmart midafternoon Thursday because the sales were better than normal, she said. She was buying jeans and shirts for her young sons, including 15-month-old Bosu Piang, who was asleep in the stroller.

"I am looking for sales, and this is the only store I will go to today," she said.

Popular gifts this year include televisions, all things related to the popular Disney movie "Frozen," puffer vests, headphones and other electronics.

Ten-year-old Saylar Killough-Wilhelm, her 12-year-old sister, Skylar Killough-Wilhelm, and dad Gary Killough-Wilhelm of West Des Moines were part of a line of chilled-to-the-bone shoppers waiting outside the Best Buy at Jordan Creek Town Center in West Des Moines waiting to buy a deeply discounted television.

The trio was disappointed after learning that they just missed out on getting a ticket to grab a 50-inch Panasonic television for $199. Store clerks were giving out the tickets to make the store opening more orderly.

The Killough-Wilhelms weren't defeated. They found a substitute they would be willing to consider once the store opened at 5 p.m.

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"We only decided to come stand in line about two hours ago," Skylar said.

Up closer to the store's entrance, Brian Velazquez, 23, of West Des Moines, had removed his white dress shoes to stand on the fleece blanket he had wrapped around him. "It's warmer this way," he said.

He had gotten in line at 11:30 a.m. Thursday and was not the first person there. Four people were ahead of him.

"It's definitely worth waiting in line," he said. His prize was a television and a set of Beat headphones, both a great deal and both gifts for himself.

While this year's 12-degree temperatures were challenging, Velazquez said he would do it again.

Shoppers poured into the Old Navy at Jordan Creek when the doors opened at 4 p.m. There was a line snaking up to the cash registers by 4:15 p.m. with shoppers' arms full of clothes.

Shae Niggemeyer of Grimes and Nikki Alexander of Urbandale were taking a casual and methodical approach to their shopping as they sifted through the 50-percent-off kids clothing. The women were heading to Kohl's, Target and Valley West Mall before ending their Thanksgiving shopping trip around 10 p.m.

"If I wasn't pregnant I wouldn't care what time I got home," Alexander said.

At the Target store at West Glen Town Center in West Des Moines, store employees offered shoppers waiting in line outside the store hot chocolate, cookies, Clif bars and coupons.

Kim Fjerstad and her daughter Cassie Fjerstad of Lytton sipped on the warm drink while they planned their strategy for grabbing a 40-inch television and a Keurig coffee maker, both Christmas gifts for Cassie Fjerstad. This was a first stop in a three-day shopping extravaganza for the women who live two hours north and west of Des Moines.

"This is our sixth annual Thanksgiving shopping trip," said Kim Fjerstad. The women come to Des Moines on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and leave Saturday. They had their turkey dinner at the Ruby Tuesday restaurant in Urbandale before getting in line at Target.

"I'll get most of my shopping done this weekend," Kim Fjerstad said.

Jordan Creek Town Center opened its doors at 5 p.m., but retailers didn't open until 6 p.m. Traffic was moderate, said Randy Tennison, general manager.

"I think people were still finishing their Thanksgiving dinner," he said.

Tennison saw crowds building around 8 p.m., which was the time the mall opened last Thanksgiving. He predicted this year's Black Friday would be busier than those in the past.

"Fewer stores were open overnight, and I think this Black Friday will be stronger than last year," he said.

Merle Hay Mall in Des Moines saw similar early-evening traffic Thursday.

"People were lined up outside of Old Navy, Shoe Carnival and Victoria's Secret," said Kris Walter, assistant general manager.

Many stores, including Younkers, were handing out coupons to early customers, Walter said.

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