"I think our associates, and frankly our customers,
deserve time with their families and that's
what Thanksgiving is about."
By Ann ZimmermanThe Wall Street Journal
Thanksgiving Day was long considered a commercial-free zone.
By tradition, it was a time for counting blessings, enjoying family and friends and scouring newspaper circulars for the best predawn retail deals available the following day, known as Black Friday.
It was very simple. Eat 'til you burst on Thursday; shop 'til you drop on Friday.
But an increasing number of stores are getting a jump on the Friday shopping hordes by opening on Thanksgiving. Some retailers say they are offering a convenience for shoppers who want to beat the madding crowds.
Retail experts say it's an attempt for stores struggling to boost sales in the stubbornly slow economic recovery to grab market share. Retail sales are expected to rise 2.3% in November and December, slightly lower than the 10-year average increase of 2.5%, according to the National Retail Federation, a trade group for retailers.
"Retailers in this environment need any advantage they can get," says Craig R. Johnson, president of Customer Growth Partners, a retail consulting group.
For the first time, Sears is opening on Thursday, from 7 a.m. until noon, finally joining the long tradition of Sears Holdings Corp.'s Kmart division, which has opened on Thanksgiving for 19 years. This year, Kmart is allowing shoppers to buy online and pick up their purchases at stores on Thanksgiving. Kmart's hours are longer, from 6 a.m. until 9 p.m. Both stores plan to offer discount deals on Thursday and Black Friday.
Sears says it decided to open on Thanksgiving to give consumers an additional day to shop. Retail analyst Brian Sozzi of Wall Street Strategies sees it as a "desperate" move on the part of a retailer struggling with declining sales and profits.Sears could definitely use a boost. Last Thursday Sears reported its third-quarter loss tripled from the year-ago period. Sales at Sears stores open at least a year slid 8%; sales were down less than 1% at Kmart.
"Who is going to be at Sears on Thanksgiving?" asks a skeptical Mr. Sozzi.
Sears spokesman Chris Brathwaite says, "Kmart has been open for 19 years on Thanksgiving and at Sears, our decision to stay open on Thanksgiving Day was based on our customers' response and desire to have an extra day to shop. We are always listening to our customers to make their shopping experience easier, and now, by being open on Thanksgiving, they can start their shopping early or pick up last minute items needed for their Thanksgiving celebration."
Gap Inc. opened about three-quarters of its Old Navy stores last Thanksgiving and the response was so "tremendous," says a spokesman, that it is opening about 90% of them this year. A handful of Gap and Banana Republic stores will be open again this year. Old Navy is open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., but the hours at Gap and Banana Republic vary by location.
"Employees volunteer to work on Thanksgiving and they get food," says Gap spokesman Bill Chandler.
The growing popularity of e-commerce where stores never close may have made it more acceptable for stores to open on Thanksgiving. Last year, 18 million people shopped in stores on Thanksgiving, according to the National Retail Federation, which had never asked the question before. About 17% of those who shopped were 18- to 34-year-olds, the highest of all age groups. "It's definitely a new trend and we think it is a really added convenience for shoppers who want the great deals and don't want the crowds," says Kathy Grannis, an NRF spokeswoman.
Several stores, including Sports Authority Inc. and Big Lots Inc., have been open on Thanksgiving for several years. Simon Group Inc.'s Premium Outlet malls in tourist locations such as Las Vegas, Hawaii and Orlando also have opened on Thanksgiving.
Still, some retailers say they will resist the call to open on Turkey Day.
"Somebody else is chasing a dollar? Let 'em do it," says Kevin Mansell, chief executive of Kohl's Corp. "I think our associates, and frankly our customers, deserve time with their families and that's what Thanksgiving is about."
He added, however, that Kohl's does plan aggressive deals on its website on Thanksgiving Day.
Vigilant Grandpa's Favorite Holiday of the Year
Be thankful that you don't already have everything you desire.
If you did, what would there be to look forward to?
Be thankful when you don't know something,
for it gives you the opportunity to learn.
Be thankful for the difficult times.
During those times you grow.
Be thankful for your limitations,
because they give you opportunities for improvement.
Be thankful for each new challenge,
because it will build your strength and character.
Be thankful for your mistakes.
They will teach you valuable lessons.
Be thankful when you're tired and weary,
because it means you've made a difference.
It's easy to be thankful for the good things.
A life of rich fulfillment comes to those who
are also thankful for the setbacks.
Gratitude can turn a negative into a positive.
Find a way to be thankful for your troubles,
and they can become your blessings.