More Stores Will Open on Thanksgiving

By Tod MarksLifestyle and BudgetConsumer Reports

Has Thanksgiving become just another shopping day? This year, more merchants plan to open their doors—or open their doors earlier—to bargain-obsessed shoppers looking to get a jump on Black Friday sales.

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According to Thom Blischok, chief retail strategist for the business consultants PriceWaterhouseCoopers and Strategy&, an estimated 35 percent to 40 percent of Americans are expected to shop at walk-in stores on Thanksgiving Day, a trend that began a few years ago, when retailers started dangling some of those Black Friday deals on Thanksgiving evening.

Kmart, which last year caught a lot of flack by announcing a marathon 41-hour shopping event beginning 6 a.m. Thanksgiving morning, will extend the skein by an additional hour. Macy’s plans to open its doors two hours earlier than last year.  And Walmart, which has been conducting business as usual on Thanksgiving since 1988, will continue to do so, according to the company, with most locations open 24 hours. In addition, many stores, including Old Navy, Toys "R" Us, and Best Buy will start letting in shoppers as some people are just sitting down for dinner.

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Protecting the family

Conversely, retailers such as Costco, Nordstrom, and Barnes & Noble steadfastly refuse to surrender to changing times. “We consider ourselves an associate-friendly company, and, we are pleased to give our associates the time to enjoy the holiday with family and friends,” said Colleen Beauregard, communications vice president for The TJX Companies, operator of Marshalls, HomeGoods, TJ Maxx, and Sierra Trading Post stores.

A GameStop spokeswoman, Jackie Smith, expressed similar sentiment. “At GameStop we often use the phrase ‘protect the family’ in reference to our business," she said. "A large part of what that means to us is to not open any of our GameStop, SimplyMac, Spring Mobile, or Cricket Wireless U.S. locations on Thanksgiving Day out of respect for our store associates and their families and friends. We believe it’s the right decision not only for our employees, but also for our customers. Enjoy this time with your loved ones and we’ll see you on Black Friday.” And for GameStop, Black Friday begins at 12:01 am.

Shoppers are divided

In a new study by LoyaltyOne, a retail consulting firm that analyzes consumer behavior, half of all Americans said they’d prefer a blissful shopping-free holiday. They said that all-day shopping hours on Thanksgiving Day are a bad idea that detracts from the traditional celebration. But one-third of respondents loved the idea, while 17 percent didn’t care either way. Millennials, those ages 18 to 34, were the biggest cheerleaders in favor of extended shopping hours on Thanksgiving; those 55 and older, the most vocal critics. Opinions differed by sex as a well, with 37 percent of men and only 29 percent of women in favor of all-day store openings.

For all the grousing, most people have embraced the Thanksgiving Day shopping with open arms, says a retail expert, Fred Thompson, a partner at LoyaltyOne. Thompson says retailers will continue to push the envelope with earlier and earlier openings until it no longer makes economic sense. As of now, though, there’s no letup or serious consumer backlash. “There’s been a change over the past five to 10 years as Black Friday and Cyber Monday became more important,” Thompson said. “Retailers found that they could drive significant traffic earlier and earlier. You’ve got a receptive audience. Consumers are engaging earlier, stores are busy, and people are shopping.”

Holiday happenings at 22 big chains

—Tod Marks

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