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Grocers hope to cash in on last-minute Thanksgiving shopping

Gregory Warner Nov 24, 2011

Tess Vigeland: With all the food and feasting associated with this day, it’s probably no surprise that the hours leading up it are considered the busiest grocery shopping time of the year. So much so that many stores that usually close at night are increasingly staying open 24 hours in the run-up to the big day.

Marketplace’s Gregory Warner checked out the scene at one of those stores in Philadelphia.

Gregory Warner: The Fresh Grocer is a supermarket chain in Philadelphia. It takes in 12 percent more revenue the week before Thanksgiving. So the owners open up this store for 24 hours on the night before.

Tom Hayworth: Wakin’ up! Wakin’ up! All night.

Tom Hayworth is the acting manager, can of Red Bull in hand.

Warner: This is a long night for you?

Hayworth: Pretty much, yeah. Not used to working the overnights.

Sales were steady, he says, until 3 a.m. in the morning. Then nothing, but the hum of floor polishers — until a few minutes before six brough a rush of early risers.

Man: It’s the best time. It’s not crowded.

Woman: To beat the crowds, can’t stand crowds. Uh-uh.

Over in the canned goods aisle I find Amanda Shivers. Her family decided they would do Thanksgiving potluck-style this year, save her from all the cooking. Until last night, she realized all the things that they forgot to buy.

Amanda Shivers: They forgot the pie crust, they forgot the gravy.

Warner: They forgot the gravy?

Shivers: Mmhm.

Incidentally, Philadelphia is No. 1 in the nation for the most money spent on canned gravy per shopper.

Shivers: You want to know why?

Warner: Yeah!

Shivers: Cut down on the fireballs, from the homemade gravy.

Fireballs, she explains, are the hot oily bubbles that splash out when you’re making gravy. They burn the cook and they leave lumps in the sauce.

Greg Robinson: Gotta be smooth, gotta be consistent — that’s the most important thing, the consistency of the gravy.

Greg Robinson is, as we speak, stirring three giant vats of gravy in the kitchen behind the store. He’s the hot-foods manager. He pulled an all-nighter cooking 49 turkeys. But not every shopper is here for turkey or gravy.

Timothy Hall came to buy dog food.

Timothy Hall: ‘Cause at the corner store, the cat food, dog food’s too high so I have to come here. They’re gonna eat good this Thanksgiving!

Warner: So you’re really here shopping for your pit bulls?

Hall: Basically.

And, to beat the crowds.

In Philadelphia, I’m Gregory Warner for Marketplace.

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