Bursting into the shopping frenzy a mere five hours after Thanksgiving Day, holiday shoppers tried to make up for the shortened Christmas shopping season. The 2002 shopping season is six days shorter than last year, making it the shortest time between Thanksgiving and Christmas since 1996. Shoppers have only 26 days, as opposed to 32 days last year to wrap up their special buys. Retailers have adapted to the shopping time crunch by making it easier for the customer to shop at their store. Some retailers opened their doors earlier on Thanksgiving weekend to accommodate the estimated 35 percent of Americans who planned to shop. K-Mart opened at 5 a.m., Best Buy welcomed customers at 6 a.m., while some larger shopping malls greeted customers at 7 a.m. Teamed with the early openings, numerous retailers beefed up their promotions on Thanksgiving weekend. Many retail consultants agree that retailers are experiencing one of their most promotional seasons ever. The Mall of America greeted early risers with breakfast: a box of Wheaties cereal to prepare them for their busy day, while Rosedale Center generously provided free Caribou coffee and beauty samples from its Crabtree & Evelyn and Trade Secret stores. Promotional products are important tools for retailers. They weigh heavy on consumers minds, helping them to decide which shops to put at the top of their shopping list. Promotional products and extra discounts are a sure-fire hit with most consumers this year. Many stores at Rosedale, boasted their discounts of up to 50 percent, while other stores, offered generous early bird discounts. In late November, the University of St. Thomas Institute for Retailing Excellence revealed their findings in a survey conducted of Twin Cities trends. The survey, based on 366 responses to 3,000 questionnaires mailed to Twin Cities households, stated that 60 percent of Twin Cities shoppers plan to spend the same amount as last year, while 33 percent plan to spend a little less or much less than last year. ABCnews.com posted their results to a consumer poll on the average estimate they will spend this year. The results state that consumer plan to spend $830 on gifts for the holidays this year, compared to an inflation-adjusted $793 last year and $840 in 2000. It hit $946 in 1999, the most in polls dating back to 1989. According to survey respondents, money is tight for many as a result of the slowing economy, smaller incomes and aging families. Because people are buying with caution this year, retailers are offering greater discounts this year compared to last year, according to George Rosenbaum, a Chicago retail consultant. Not every shopper scouted out the advertised discounts on the supposed "busiest shopping day of the year." Alanna Jerlow 04 said, P"eople are just crazy and will jump on any free deal. To me, nothing I want is ever on sale. I will buy it whether it is on sale or not." Discounts, however, did appear to help stores' revenue. Steve Nevill, a partner at the retailing firm Kurt Salmon Associates, estimates that department stores and larger clothing stores saw a two percent increase for the weekend, while discounters saw a four percent increase. The popular discount store Wal-Mart set a record for one-day sales. They earned $1.43 billion dollars the Friday after Thanksgiving. Last year, sales reached $1.25 billion on the same day. Popular items purchased at Wal-Mart that day included MGA Entertainments Bratz dolls, DVDs such as "Monsters, Inc." and digital cameras. While some shoppers merged through the crowds of people, others remained at home, shopping online. The research company BizRate found that online sales were up 61 percent on Friday, compared to the results from the same day last year. Similarly, an AOL survey released last week, reported that local Internet users make an average of four purchases online per month, but that six out of ten local online shoppers say they will likely buy more online this holiday season. All this is not to assume that the weekend after Thanksgiving is always the busiest. Realistically, according to records from the 2001 Christmas shopping season, complied by the International Shopping Center Association, Thanksgiving weekend accounted for only 8.4 percent of holiday sales, compared with 34 percent during the weekend before Christmas.