The season is starting earlier and earlier.
Macy’s will open stores at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving, two hours prior to last year. Macy’s last Thanksgiving opened for business at 8 p.m., breaking a long-standing tradition of staying closed during the holiday. The previous year, the retailer opened at midnight on Black Friday.
“With the growing customer-driven trend toward early shopping for Black Friday each year, Macy’s aims to accommodate customers who count on us to be there when they are ready to shop,” Macy’s told WWD. “In response to the significant, sustained customer interest in last year’s opening on Thanksgiving, both at Macy’s and at many other retailers, we will be opening our full-line department stores at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 27.”
“I expect that Thanksgiving is now another business day and retailers will probably have value offerings on Thursday and different value offerings on Friday, as Wal-Mart did during the period last year,” said Walter Loeb, president of Loeb Associates. “I expect it to be ugly since business has been poor in September and the beginning of October. This means retailers really are hurting and are looking for ways to make up the business. I expect [sales] to start on Thanksgiving and be very aggressive.”
Macy’s said sales associates have expressed a willingness to work on Thanksgiving. In previous years, Wal-Mart and Target associates objected. “We work diligently to staff Thanksgiving with associates who volunteer to work and doing so means that our people are able to make their own decisions about how they contribute to our most important and busiest weekend of the year,” Macy’s said. “We also heard last year from many associates who appreciated the opportunity to work on Thanksgiving so they could have time off on Black Friday. Additionally, associates who work an opening shift on Thanksgiving will be compensated with incentive pay.”
In just a few days, the majority of shifts filled voluntarily, Macy’s said.
Retailers will have one extra selling day between Thanksgiving and Christmas compared with last year.
Still, Loeb said, it will be challenging. “It was too warm. We’re looking at a very unusual time in terms of weather. Also, people are not aggressive about spending because they’re scared — they’re not sure about jobs and about the stock market.”
Other retail analysts believe that the real battle for sales will begin in the hours leading up to Thanksgiving, when Web traffic traditionally spikes.
The call to arms has been answered by Target, which will also be open on Thanksgiving Day. The retailer hasn’t announced the time yet, but Target is already promoting Black Friday and Cyber Monday with ads on its Web site, “Cyber Week starts 11/30. Sign up to be the first to know about Black Friday and Cyber Monday.”
Lord & Taylor in 2012 blindsided the competition by opening for the first time at 10 a.m. on Thanksgiving. That year, bricks-and-mortar shopping was debated over Thanksgiving dinner tables — should family and food trump low prices — while shopping on Thursday has become a new tradition for many retailers.
Nordstrom last year took a stand against opening stores on Thanksgiving and remained closed, reserving the day for friends and family to gather. Signs outside stores read, “We won’t be decking our halls until Friday, Nov. 29. Why? We just like the idea of celebrating one holiday at a time.”
Nordstrom will remain closed on this holiday this year.