Black Friday Deals Will Start Earlier This Year

4798There was an outcry last year when some retailers opened at midnight on Thanksgiving, with workers and shoppers saying the holiday should be reserved for family, not spent lining up for the start of the Christmas shopping season.

Black Friday shoppers at a Target in Knoxville, Tenn., last year. This year, the stores will open at 9 p.m.
This year, retailers are responding to the criticism by opening even earlier on Thanksgiving evening -- and a handful are even planning to be open all day.

The lesson of 2011 was clear: earlier shopping hours were good for the top line. Retailers said their midnight openings drew a younger crowd who wanted to party -- and shop -- late rather than get up early. At Macy's Herald Square store in Manhattan, for instance, about 9,000 people were in line as it opened, compared with 7,000 for an early Friday opening the previous year.

"We got customer feedback that says, 'I like to shop earlier so I can go to bed earlier,' so as we looked at the balance of being competitive in the marketplace and being customer-centric," said Duncan Mac Naughton, chief merchandising and marketing officer for Wal-Mart, which will put its first doorbuster items on sale at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving.

Just a few years ago, most major stores opened about 5 a.m. on the Friday after Thanksgiving, usually the busiest shopping day of the year. This year, not only are the openings scattered across two days, but several retailers are offering staggered deals -- some items at a certain time, other items a few hours later, still others over the weekend.

"We had Black Friday pretty cleanly teed up, with, here are the ads, here are the stores opening Friday morning, pick a retailer and go," said Brad Wilson, who lists Black Friday ads at BradsDeals. "Now you have this multiday affair, and you can go at different times."

Kmart has perhaps the most confusing hours. Like last year, it will open at 6 a.m. on Thanksgiving. It will then stay open until 4 p.m., close from 4 to 8 p.m., reopen at 8, stay open until 3 a.m. on Friday, close from 3 to 5 a.m., reopen at 5, and then stay open until 11 p.m. on Friday.

Sears, which was closed on Thanksgiving last year, will open at 8 p.m. on Thursday night.

Sears Holdings, which owns both Sears and Kmart, said in a news release that customers wanted "more flexible Black Friday in-store shopping times."

Lord & Taylor was closed last year on Thanksgiving, but this year it will be open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Walmart, which is generally open 24 hours anyway, is offering the first deals on Thanksgiving two hours earlier than last year. Mr. Mac Naughton said customer feedback and competitiveness with other retailers were factors.

Target, which last year got angry feedback from employees when it opened at midnight on Thanksgiving, this year moved it up three hours to 9 p.m., according to a holiday circular posted online on Friday.

Some workers object to Thanksgiving Day holiday openings, saying it cuts into family time. It shows "disregard for all of our families," said Mary Pat Tifft, a Walmart employee in Kenosha, Wis., who is part of the union-backed OUR Walmart group, in a statement. But in many cases, it can also mean a higher hourly pay rate for holiday duty.

Now, the handful of retailers who are holding off until midnight on Thanksgiving suddenly look like the respectful ones.

"We believe that Thanksgiving Day is a time to spend and celebrate with family, and we want our associates to do so," said Jim Sluzewski, a spokesman for Macy's, which will open at midnight. Kohl's will also open at midnight Thanksgiving, as will Best Buy, according to a circular posted online Friday.

Source: The New York Times | STEPHANIE CLIFFORD
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