Business

Thanksgiving is now the new Black Friday

Eat turkey, watch some football and know that if you want to knock off items to purchase for your holiday gift list, Thanksgiving is now the new Black Friday.

Millions of Americans are expected to head to the stores for holiday gift shopping on Thanksgiving in what’s quickly becoming a new but controversial holiday tradition. Just a few years ago when a few stores started opening on the holiday, the move was met with resistance from workers and shoppers who believed the day should be sacred. But this year, more than a dozen major retailers are opening on the holiday.

Among Tacoma Mall’s anchor stores, J.C. Penney will open at 5 p.m. on Thanksgiving and remain open all night.

Macy’s and Sears will open at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving and likewise remain open through dawn Friday.

Nordstrom will be closed on Thanksgiving and will reopen Friday at 9 a.m.

In Olympia, Capital Mall will open at 6 p.m. Thanksgiving and remain open until 10 p.m. Friday, or 28 hours for that first stretch of holiday shopping.

Most of the mall’s stores will open at 6 p.m. Thanksgiving, including anchor tenants such as Macy’s. Best Buy plans to open at 5 p.m.

HOLIDAY OR BEST SALES DAY?

An analysis of sales data and store circulars by two research firms contradicts conventional wisdom that Black Friday is when shoppers can get the most and biggest sales of the year.

Turns out, shoppers will find more discounted items in stores that are open on Thanksgiving. For example, there are a total of 86 laptops and tablets deeply discounted as door buster deals at Best Buy, Walmart and others on the holiday compared with just nine on Black Friday, according to an analysis of promotions for The Associated Press by researcher MarketTrack.

And on the Web, discounts will be deeper on the holiday. Online prices on Thanksgiving are expected to be about 24 percent cheaper compared with 23 percent on Black Friday and 20 percent on Cyber Monday, according to Adobe, which tracks data on 4,500 retail websites.

The data is the latest proof that retailers are slowly redefining the Black Friday tradition. It’s been the biggest shopping day of the year for years, mostly because it’s traditionally when retailers pull out their best sales events. But in the past few years, retailers such as Target and Toys R Us have started opening their stores and offering holiday discounts on Thanksgiving to better compete with online rivals.

Macy’s spokesman Jim Sluzewski said Thanksgiving is when many customers prefer to shop, citing National Retail Federation figures that show 44.8 million people shopped on Thanksgiving Day last year, up 27 percent from 2012.

DEAL-SEEKING SHOPPERS

Gas prices may be hovering at a four-year low, but Americans are paying more for food, health care and other costs. Unemployment is falling, too, but wage growth has been stagnant. And even though the stock and housing markets have improved, Americans haven’t changed their deal-hungry shopping habits.

“Retail therapy is out the window for most Americans,” said Ken Perkins, president of RetailMetrics LLC, a research firm.

Not that this holiday season is expected to be a dud. The National Retail Federation forecasts holiday sales will grow 4.1 percent to $616.9 billion — the highest increase since 2011. But retailers already have had to resort to discounting to get shoppers into stores.

Heavy discounting eats into profits. For example, over the past weekend, online sales rose 18.7 percent, but the average order value was $112.86, down 5.4 percent for the same period a year ago because of promotions, according to IBM Digital Analysts Benchmark, which tracks sales at 800 websites.

J.C. Penney’s CEO Mike Ullman told investors he expects customers will still be “very savvy” this holiday season even if they have more money to spend because of low fuel prices.

According to a recent survey of 500 shoppers by Accenture, 29 percent said it would take a discount of 50 percent or more to persuade them to make a purchase. Two years ago, that figure was 21 percent.

NOT ON THE BANDWAGON

A number of employees, unions and consumer groups have launched petition drives against opening stores before most families sit down for their turkey dinner. A boycott page on Facebook now features a list of “naughty” and “nice” stores, based on whether they have joined the frenzy.

Other retailers in addition to Nordstrom, including bookseller Barnes & Noble and warehouse clubs Sam’s Club and Costco — will remain closed on Thanksgiving.

“Our employees work especially hard during the holiday season, and we simply believe that they deserve the opportunity to spend Thanksgiving with their families. Nothing more complicated than that,” Costco said in its statement.

Nordstrom’s Thanksgiving closure policy is not set in stone.

“We’re always listening to our customers,” Nordstrom spokesman Dan Evans said.

The upscale department store chain used to close for the Independence Day holiday on July 4, for example, but after receiving requests from its customers, it reversed course and opted to stay open.

In future years, Thanksgiving could work out that way, too.

“We like to listen to our customers,” Evans said.“They guide us. We don’t guide them.”

However, some employees will still be working into the early hours of Thanksgiving morning. It’s a company tradition that as soon as the stores close on Wednesday night, employees begin decorating for Christmas. That way, when the doors open on Black Friday, the trees, tinsel and wreaths are in place.

“We make it fun,” Evans said of the late-night decorating tradition. Once it’s done, employees go home to celebrate Thanksgiving.

The Associated Press and The Houston Chronicle contributed to this report.

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