Ready. Set. Go.
The search for perfect gifts begins now.
This is different from the search for the perfect turkey, cranberry salad and dressing (cornbread wins!) that make up the first part of Thanksgiving.
Experts estimate seven out of every 10 people go shopping on Thursday and Friday this week, spending part of the average $420 they've budgeted between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday. That figure comes from a Deloitte survey about holiday shopping that also found 26 percent of shoppers will head to stores on Thanksgiving while 29 percent will do their shopping online over the holiday.
On Black Friday, 70 percent of the people Deloitte surveyed plan to shop in-store — which will surprise no one who has ever been in the packed, Christmas carol-filled stores that day.
Retailers across Topeka have been planning for this jump in sales and shoppers for weeks. Trucks have been rolling up to warehouses and back doors. Managers have been hiring seasonal workers.
Kohl's, a spokeswoman said, hires 90,000 seasonal workers nationwide. For Topeka manager Tim Kathol, the weeks preceding the holiday sales season are all about preparing employees. The corporate Kohl's planners make sure the store is properly stocked, and he just has to execute the plan.
"Our whole position is to make sure that when our customers come through the door on Black Friday that they have a safe shopping experience, a happy shopping experience with friendly associates," he said. "We do put a lot of focus on our associates. We run hourly contests. We basically feed them from the minute they walk in, whether it's 2, 3 or 4 o'clock in the afternoon, until they leave Friday night at midnight. We try to make it fun."
In a business with a lot of part-time employees, Black Friday is also fun because 95 percent of the employees are in that day, Kathol added.
"It's a great opportunity not only to serve our customers but really kind of bond with the team," he said. "It really is a fun day. The hard part is getting ready for it. Once it hits, it's a blast."
For those who've been working retail for a while, the holidays can be fun.
Teresa Forbes, general manager at Topeka's JCPenney's store, wholeheartedly agreed.
"It takes a lot of prep. It takes a lot of teamwork," she said. "It's a lot of work, but it's a lot of fun and payback at the end," adding with a grin, "You gotta love that adrenaline rush."
As retailers are stocked and ready to go, shoppers are buying newspapers, downloading apps and planning their strategies for maneuvering through shopping chaos.
They'll find plenty of opportunities to buy unique gifts.
From blown glass to fused glass, from antique ceramic Christmas trees to notepads with laugh-out-loud inscriptions, retailers are determined to offer items for a wide varieties of tastes.
Boots continue to be a big seller at JCPenneys, Forbes said. And those ugly Christmas sweaters, along with regular sweaters, sail out of the store.
Kohl's is stocked up on electronics and toys, Kathol said.
The company expanded its electronics department, and they also brought in FAO Schwarz toys. That beloved company, known for its unique, high-quality toys, also reopened a flagship store in New York City recently and is making a global push with pop-up stores in Europe and Canada. At Kohl's, buyers can find wooden castles and even a nostalgic remote-controlled bumper car set.
Outside the national chain stores, Topeka's locally owned retailers are set for the holidays, too.
Keeping in mind that 60 percent of consumers surveyed by the National Retail Federation listed gift cards as their preferred gifts, most local retailers offer this option. That can take some pressure off gift-givers.
Gift cards to local stores like Dandelions Arts & Crafts, 2827 S.W. 29th St., Bedsprings & Burlap, 4008 S.W. Topeka Blvd., and Leaping Llamas Artisan Shop, 725 S. Kansas Ave., can be used for classes, which can be the perfect gift for children and art lovers of any age.
Local retailers also offer the best option for one-of-a-kind gifts or items that can perfectly sum up that special relationship. Take, for instance, notepads at Home at Last, a decor store at 5331 S.W. 22nd Place.
There's the "Menopause. You're hot." option that's (mostly) sure to draw laughs. Or "The only marathon I run is six seasons on Netflix."
Unique ideas abound, from hand-painted ornaments done in the Ne'Qwa style (artists use an angled brush to paint the inside of blown glass ornaments) available at the Wild Bird House, 2901 S.W. 29th St., or colorful renditions of Topeka streets and iconic buildings done by Becky Drager and sold at Leaping Llamas.
Whatever takes you to the streets or your computer chair this weekend searching for the Holy Grail of presents — the perfect item that makes your loved ones' eyes twinkle — keep in mind that it's not the amount of money spent, but the thought that goes into the gift.
No pressure though.