Andrew Kuhn / MLive – GRAND RAPIDS, MI — Over the past two years, Black Friday has gained a solid six-hour foothold into Thanksgiving.
This year, the line has moved from prime time to supper time.
Most big box retailers and department stores, from Target to Kohl’s, will open at 6 p.m. on the holiday. A handful of others — such as JCPenney, Toys R Us and Best Buy — are getting a headstart on the competition with a 5 p.m. start time.
West Michigan’s two major malls, Woodland and RiverTown Crossings, are throwing open their doors at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving to accommodate the earlier start times of their retailers, which last year was mostly 8 p.m.
Midwest retailer Meijer, which is open 24 hours a day, will start its Thanksgiving Day sale at 6 a.m. It will be joined by retailers Kmart, Sears and Radio Shack.
More than half of Woodland Mall’s 112 retail tenants have committed to a 6 p.m. opening time, and the number could grow in the next week, said Terry Leshuk, marketing manager of the Kentwood shopping center.
“The demand must be there from the shoppers for the stores to open earlier,” Leshuk said. “We are accommodating (retailers’) needs.”
Among the mall’s Thanksgiving Day holdouts are GameStop and the new Vera Bradley store, which will open at midnight Thursday while retailers Barnes & Noble and Williams-Sonoma will wait until 5 a.m. Friday, followed by J.Crew and Pottery Barn an hour later at 6 a.m.
Black Friday 2014, the traditional kickoff to the holiday-shopping season, as evolved into a multi-day sale marathon that launches with Gray Thursday, shifts onto Small Business Saturday and wraps up with Cyber Monday.
But shoppers don’t have to wait until the holiday weekend to find deep discounts.
Both Amazon and Walmart kicked off Black Friday-like deals during Halloween weekend.
The best online deals will happen the Sunday and Monday before Thanksgiving, according to the 2014 Holiday Shopping Prediction by Adobe Digital Index.
The Black Friday creep has triggered backlash from employees and customers, who complain the sales are infringing on a family holiday.
On Facebook, more than 1 million users have shared a badge that pledges not to shop on Thanksgiving. It reads: “If I’m shopping, someone else is working and not spending time with their family. Everyone deserves a holiday.”
But the social media campaign won’t be enough of a stigma to stop the trend, says Edward Nakfoor, a Birmingham-based retail consultant.
“We live in a consumer culture,” said Nakfoor. “People admit to shopping on Thanksgiving, the way they admit to watching ‘Housewives.’ It’s a guilty pleasure.”
A recent survey indicates a growing interest in shopping on Thanksgiving despite criticism the holiday hours are unfair to retail workers.
Of the 500 U.S. consumers surveyed by Accenture Research, 45 percent of respondents said they planned to shop on Thanksgiving this year, up from 38 percent in 2013.
Last year, an estimated 45 million holiday consumers shopped on Thanksgiving last year, according to the National Retail Federation’s caculations. That’s up more than 28 percent from the estimated 35 million the trade organization said hit the stores on the holiday in 2012.
Black Friday tends to be polarizing, with most shoppers giving it either a thumbs up or down, says Jeff Green, Michigan native and retail consultant who now calls Arizona home.
“FIfty percent of consumers will hate Black Friday and 50 percent will love it,” said Green. “And there’s nothing in between.”
Those who loathe it will shop online or hit the stores the first weekend of December, which tends to be the slowest of the holiday season, Green said.
The silver lining of longer Black Friday sales is that the lines are getting shorter for those who go out on the actual day, Green added.
Spending expected to rise
Consumers are expected to spend $460 on gifts for their family, up 6.5 percent from $432 last year, and $80 on gifts for friends, up from $75 last year, according to a NRF holiday survey of 7,547 consumers.
Overall holiday spending per person is expected to rise 5 percent to $804.
One of the more popular trends in recent years – self-gifting – is expected to drop 6 percent this year to $126.
Overall, the NRF predicts a 4.1 percent growth in sales in November and December, compared to one year ago, for a total of $616.9 billion.
In the race for those holiday dollars, several retailers such as Macy’s, Kohl’s and Target are planning to stay open from Thanksgiving evening through the night and into Black Friday. Kmart promises to keep its doors open for 42 hours straight.
Best Buy is bucking the trend. The electronics chain will close at 1 a.m. and reopen on Friday at 8 a.m.
Depending on sales, Jonathan Shuff is prepared to keep his new Made In Michigan store open through the night along with his Woodland Mall neighbor Macy’s.
“I’m going to play it by ear,” said Shuff. “I have a feeling there is going to be traffic all night long.”
Made in Michigan, one of 67 retailers in the mall that so far have announced Thanksgiving hours, plans to open at 6 p.m. on the holiday.
“Our first year, we want to be there and try to take advantage of all that traffic,” said Shuff, who opened the 3,000-square-foot shop that sells only Michigan-made products in October.
But he didn’t ask any of his half-dozen employees to work the holiday, although one volunteered to work with Shuff because his family is out of town this year.
“We are just going to have dinner a littler earlier,” Shuff said.