Early-bird shoppers headed to stores on Thanksgiving in what’s becoming a new holiday tradition.
In Salina the Wal-Mart store was full roughly an hour before Thanksgiving deals started at 6 p.m., including $199 iPad minis. Across the street at Target, a line of shoppers waiting to get in to purchase special items including a 40 inch TV for $119 when the doors opened at 6:00 stretched around the outside of the store
Thanksgiving shopping has come a long way. Just a few years ago when a few stores started opened late on the holiday, the move was met with resistance from workers and shoppers who believed the day should be sacred.
But last year, more than dozen major retailers opened at some point on Thanksgiving evening. And this year, at least half of them — including Target, Macy’s, Staples and J.C. Penney — opened earlier in the evening on the holiday.
The Thanksgiving openings are one way retailers are trying to compete for Americans’ holiday dollars. Used to be that Black Friday was when they’d focus their sales promotions. But increasingly, they’ve been pushing those promotions earlier on Friday — and eventually into the holiday itself — to grab deal-hungry shoppers’ attention.
Bill Martin, co-founder of ShopperTrak, which tracks data at 70,000 stores globally, is expecting a sales increase of 3 percent to 5 percent to $2.57 billion to $2.62 billion on Thanksgiving. Last year’s figure grew two-fold from the year before.
The National Retail Federation expects 25.6 million shoppers to take advantage of the Thanksgiving openings, down slightly from last year.
Kathy Grannis, a spokeswoman at the retail trade group, said that earlier promotions in the month and shoppers’ uncertainty about when they can get the best deals are factors that could lead to fewer shoppers coming out on the holiday.
Nevertheless, Thanksgiving is starting to take a bite out of Black Friday business. Indeed, sales dropped 13.2 percent to $9.74 billion on Black Friday last year. Analysts said Thanksgiving sales were in part responsible for the decline.
And Gerald Storch, who runs a retail consultancy called Storch Advisors, said stores that open on Thanksgiving get more of their share of sales for the four-day holiday weekend than others who open on Friday.
“That’s why they keep doing it,” he said. “You have to be first.”
Not every shopper is happy about stores opening on the holiday. A number of petitions have been circulating on change.org targeting Wal-Mart, Target and other retailers for opening their stores on Thanksgiving, or starting their sales that day. Most of Wal-Mart’s stores already open around the clock.
Not every store was open on Thanksgiving, though. Some, including GameStop, Costco and Ikea, said they wouldn’t open because they want their workers to enjoy the holiday.