Justine Griffin / Herald-Tribune – And we thought they couldn’t go any earlier.
Some of the nation’s largest retail chains — Walmart, Best Buy, Macy’s and nearly a dozen others — will open their doors earlier than ever on Thanksgiving Day this holiday season — to the chagrin of some workers stuck with that duty.
Leading the charge are Best Buy, Toys R Us and J.C. Penney, with electronics, toys and department stores offering doorbuster deals as early as 5 p.m.
Macy’s, Kohl’s, Target and Walmart will open their stores across the country at 6 p.m.
“Black Friday just isn’t what it used to be,” said Jeff Green, a Phoenix-based retail analyst who studies the Southwest Florida retail market. “Instead of one night to shop it’s turned into an entire weekend, which spreads out the traffic from Thanksgiving to Sunday.”
Nearly half, or 45.6 percent of holiday shoppers say they have not started shopping and plan to wait until Thanksgiving or later this year, a recent survey by the National Retail Federation found. That figure is the lowest in the survey’s seven-year history.
“Many consumers are going to wait and see how great the promotions will be later this season before making any commitments,” federation CEO Matthew Shay said. “Retailers have reacted to this ‘wait-and-see’ mentality with fewer October deals and a much quieter entry into November, when we’ll start to see retailers ramp up with offers for exclusive merchandise, deep discounts and unique online savings opportunities.”
That said, some Best Buy stores around the country already have shoppers waiting in line for the Nov. 27 promotions, which include a Samsung 55-inch LED Ultra HD Smart TV for $899.99 and $100 off on all iPad Air 2 models.
Doorbuster deals will begin at 5 p.m. on Thanksgiving at stores owned by the Richfield, Minnesota-based chain, and another round on different products will be offered at 8 a.m. on Black Friday. Last year, Best Buy stores opened at 6 p.m.
“While we recognize the decision to open on Thanksgiving affects Best Buy employees, customers have made it clear that many of them want to begin shopping on Thanksgiving evening,” Best Buy said. “In recent years, millions of Americans have shopped on Thanksgiving.”
“Most Thanksgiving evening shifts are filled by employees who volunteer to work,” the company said. “All hourly store employees who work on Thanksgiving will, of course, receive holiday pay.”
Stores are showing shoppers a taste of the Black Friday deals they plan to offer ahead of time, and even giving shoppers a chance for an early purchase:
• Last year, Macy’s stores opened at 8 p.m. Beginning on Nov. 20, shoppers will be able to preview Thanksgiving doorbuster deals on the website for the Cincinnati-based chain. Deals include a $39.99 Charter Club cashmere crewneck and v-neck sweaters, $19.99 Rampage boots, a $29.99 Prescott 600-thread-count sheet set, among dozens of other mark-downs.
• Target shoppers will get early access for Black Friday doorbuster deals online at Target.com. There shoppers can buy eligible products and pick them up at the store at a later date. Stores owned by the Minneapolis-based retailer will offer in-store doorbusters at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving, including a $89 Apple TV and a selection of $9 movies and $7 CDs.
• Walmart is incorporating online and in-store promotions over the entire Thanksgiving weekend this year, the Bentonville, Arkansas company said. Promotions begin at Walmart.com on Thanksgiving morning with online-only deals like Samsung 55-inch 4K Ultra HD Curved Smart TV for $1,298 or Dell 15.6-inch Touchscreen Laptop for $549.
“Black Friday is no longer about waking up at the crack of dawn to stand in long lines and hope for the best,” said Duncan Mac Naughton, Walmart’s chief merchandising officer in the United States. “It’s become a family shopping tradition where everyone shops at some point throughout the weekend.”
In-store promotions begin at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving, but waves of deals will last over five days. Electronics doorbusters at Walmart begin at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving, but shoppers can take 30 percent off certain departments from 6 a.m. to noon on Black Friday.
Deals on tires, wireless products and diamonds will last Friday through Sunday.
The retailer also is bringing back its one-hour guarantee program for the third year, which allows shoppers who get in line at designated areas inside the store from 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. to buy the gift they want and take it home that night or pick it up later inside the store before Christmas. The guarantee is good on select electronics items.
Many analysts are hopeful that this year will be the turnaround season for the retail industry.
Sales have fallen flat every year since the Great Recession as brick-and-mortar chains struggle to compete against the growing threat of e-commerce companies like Amazon.com.
But Green, the Phoenix-based analyst, still predicts only modest growth for sales in 2014: 3-5 percent.
“Everything will depend on how the Black Friday weekend goes,” he said. “If it doesn’t go well, retailers will discount all product quickly through Christmas. I think it will be steady, but consumer confidence is still too low, so most shoppers will be hunting for value only.”
Unlike many markets across the nation, Black Friday will likely be more significant for shoppers in Southwest Florida, thanks to the recent opening of the Mall at University Town Center.
“There are two types of shoppers — people who love Black Friday or people who hate it and will never shop on that day. The Black Friday shoppers will want to know what it’s going to be like at the new mall,” Green said. “This will be a good time to gauge if Sarasota is a big enough market to support another regional mall.”
Ellenton Premium Outlets in Manatee County, which has traditionally been the top Black Friday destination in the Sarasota-Bradenton year after year, will not feel too pinched by the new mall, Green predicted.
“Outlet shoppers are different and will continue to shop at discount centers like that,” Green said. “The new mall won’t have much of an effect on their business.”