Welcome Thanksgiving, or Black Thursday, depending on a languorous holiday feast with family or hardy shopping plans.
Most Americans surveyed expect to stay home. In a recent Consumer Reports holiday poll, 56 percent of adults surveyed said they weren’t going into a store the entire weekend.
But there’s no denying the Thanksgiving Day holiday is changing on the retail side with more stores opening even earlier.
“With more retailers opening their doors on Thanksgiving Day, 13 percent of U.S. consumers plan to shop on that day,” according to survey results conducted between Oct. 31 and Nov. 3 by the International Council of Shopping Centers Inc. (ICSC) and Goldman Sachs. “However, a hefty 46 percent of consumers plan to shop on Black Friday (Nov. 29), as the day continues to be the prime focus for the bargain-conscious consumer.”
Expectations are for a busy weekend after Black Friday with 34 percent of consumers taking part in the survey saying they expect to shop. For some, it’s tradition. But online options are offering deals for those who don’t want to rub so many shoulders.
“Cyber Monday (Dec. 2) also pops up as an important shopping day with 42 percent of consumers planning to shop online during that day,” the ICSC survey reported.
A number of retailers have stretched Black Friday into the week before with early sales and daily door busters.
In the past, dedicated Black Friday shoppers planned trips and set alarms to get up early. Last year, shoppers weren’t setting alarms as much as staying up late. The retail crowd seemed to include more teenagers. Opening hours moved from 3 a.m. to midnight and then 10 p.m. This year, stores are opening at a variety of hours, many at 6 p.m. or 8 p.m.
On Thanksgiving Day, Target is opening at 8 p.m., an hour earlier than last year. Kohl’s and J.C. Penney and Sears Holdings also reported opening at 8 p.m. Best Buy is opening at 6 p.m. and that’s when Wal-Mart sales begin.
Mills Fleet Farm and Menards are among stores still opening at 6 a.m. on Friday.
“As a family-owned company, Menards believes that Thanksgiving is a time for togetherness, which should be celebrated with all those we hold dear. With this in mind, we decided to remain closed on Thanksgiving Day,” the company reported on its website.
But as an indicator of the trend, Michaels announced it would open at 4 p.m. Thanksgiving Day. Can noon openings be far behind?
“The significance of Black Friday as the linchpin of the shopping season has diminished in recent years as the season itself has grown longer,” Consumer Reports stated after gathering input in a holiday poll. “Many merchants have been promoting doorbuster-type sales since October, making Black Friday seem almost ho-hum.
“In addition, deal-starved shoppers need no longer wait for a seminal shopping spectacle such as Black Friday to unearth bargains.”
Mark Marone, a research consultant with AchieveGlobal, author and professor, said shoppers are still cautious and on average will spend about $500 during the coming holiday season.
AchieveGlobal’s survey found about 25 percent of respondents planned to spend less this year compared to 18 percent who said they planned to spend more.
Perhaps not surprisingly a list of holiday wishes had shoppers wanting faster checkouts, fewer people and shorter lines, items in stock and friendlier people both at the counters and as fellow consumers.
It’s in the retailers best interest to make the shopping season a happy experience. Marone reported customers who are happier with the experience are likely to spend more.
Wal-Mart is stepping out by guaranteeing its customers that 21 of its best deals will be available for the first hour of Black Friday sales. Shoppers may also find their smartphones will give them a heads’ up on special deals.
“Opening earlier does work,” Mark Bergen, associate dean of marketing at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School, recently told the Star Tribune. “If I get you into my store first or second, I may get 20 or 30 percent of a consumer’s dollars instead of 10 percent.”
But retail analysts report if people want to savor Thanksgiving Day with family, friends, football and, of course, food, there will be plenty of deals throughout the season.
A Consumer Reports poll found “Black Friday will just be an ordinary day for the 56 percent of Americans who plan to do no shopping at all this weekend.”
“Those who intend to go out shopping on Black Friday probably know what to expect, and to them that’s part of the allure,” said Tod Marks, Consumer Reports senior editor and resident shopping expert. “However, it’s easy to get caught up in the shopping frenzy and spend more than you really want to. That’s why it’s important to do your homework beforehand, have a plan and stick to it.”
Consumer Reports stated: “Between comparison-shopping sites and the willingness of big chains such as Toys “R” Us and Best Buy to match the prices of aggressive online competitors such as Amazon, there’s ample opportunity for consumers to find great deals and bargain prices throughout the season.”