Let's just blame it all on the turkey.
Thanksgiving falls on the fourth Thursday of every month, and since Black Friday falls on Nov. 29 this year, that makes for the shortest possible holiday season. That's a problem for stores that want to milk as much out of this time of year as possible. It could also be a problem for shoppers, since stores will probably be more crowded given the fewer shopping days until Christmas this year.
Retailers may have been initially reluctant to creep their operating hours deeper into Thanksgiving Day, but now that nearly everybody's doing it, they don't have much of a choice. Turkey Thursday is the new Black Friday. Let's look at a few of the notable chains hoping that you start checking gifts off your shopping list a day early.
Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT )
It seems as if the holiday shopping season keeps starting two hours earlier every year at the world's largest retailer. Since cracking open its sliding doors at midnight on Friday in 2010, Wal-Mart stores since opened at 10 p.m. on Thanksgiving in 2011 and 8 p.m. last year. Now those doors will open at 6 p.m.
Wal-Mart has already gone public with some of the deals greeting early shoppers. The highlights include a 32-inch LED television for just $98, and it will offer a $100 Wal-Mart gift card to those buying the $299 iPad Mini. On the toy front, Wal-Mart will offer the Furby Boom for $29.
Best Buy (NYSE: BBY )
The consumer-electronics superstore chain is also matching Wal-Mart's 6 p.m. open for more than 1,000 of its locations. Given the stock's strong gains this year, it doesn't want to be left behind now.
Best Buy doesn't want to upset Black Friday purists, so it will have sales that kick in at midnight. There are also deals that start on Friday morning. However, Best Buy has some good stuff in limited quantities that it will offer up at 6 p.m. including an iPad 2 at $299 and a 65-inch Samsung high-def TV at $999. Offering the doorbusters in three waves between Thursday night and Friday morning should cover most of its prospective shoppers.
Macy's (NYSE: M )
Macy's bounced back this week with a blowout quarter. It had posted a rare miss three months earlier, but it followed that up with a surprisingly potent 31% surge in earnings per share fueled by a 3.5% increase in same-store sales.
Macy's turned heads two weeks into October by announcing that it will open at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving. It had waited until midnight to kick off its shopping season last year, simply offering online shoppers access to its weekend sale on Thursday. This time around it's going all out, and the 44-page ad circular that's been leaked to Black Friday websites details the Thursday night sale. If you still want to stay in with your family, Macy's is offering an online promo that includes 20% off and free shipping for orders of more than $99 during the weekend.
Macy's received some heat for being the first big name this season to announce a Thanksgiving night opening, but it was quickly followed by many of its peers.
Sears Holdings' (NASDAQ: SHLD ) Kmart has been opening on Thanksgiving for decades, and doing so clearly hasn't helped. The fading discount department store has struggled to grow its store-level sales, and the combination of Sears and Kmart hasn't delivered the promised synergies. You need money to remain relevant in retail, and Sears just hasn't made the right capital expenditures to make Kmart relevant or cut prices deep enough to woo the Wal-Mart shopper.
However, Kmart still made waves earlier this month when it announced that it will open at 6 a.m. on Thanksgiving this year, making Wal-Mart's move to 6 p.m. seem tame by comparison.
Doorbusters at Kmart will include a $40 Android tablet and a $5 toaster. If that sounds like the kind of low-lying discounting fruit that got Kmart into the funk that it's in today, it's also offering a 50-inch high-def TV at $400.
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