Only a couple of years ago, consumers could burn off Thanksgiving calories by waiting in the chilly Black Friday morning darkness outside stores for a chance to snag deeply discounted TVs and other ?door buster? deals.
This year, holiday shoppers won?t even have a chance to digest the turkey and pumpkin pie before they start gathering at the doors of retailers.
Many major stores ? Kohl?s, Macy?s, Boston Store among them ? plan to open at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving, two hours earlier than in 2013. That was the first major year that the holiday shopping season launched on Thanksgiving rather than the day after.
Electronics and appliance merchant Best Buy will open even earlier ? at 5 p.m., hoping to attract shoppers with eye-catching limited-quantity deals like a Panasonic 50-inch LED high-definition television for $199.99. Competitor hhgregg plans to top Best Buy by an hour, unlocking the doors at 4 p.m. on Thanksgiving, while Kmart plans to beat just about everyone to the punch with a 6 a.m. Thanksgiving Day start.
With some big retailers pitching online door busters throughout the week and Wal-Mart turning the unofficial start of the holiday shopping season into a five-day event with staggered-time door busters, it?s clear Black Friday isn?t what it once was.
But that doesn?t mean consumers won?t be teeming at retailer doors on Thanksgiving evening looking for deals. Many still will line up for bargains ? and some, for the camaraderie of the shopping event ? even if it requires cutting out of family gatherings a bit sooner.
STRONG YEAR-END SALES EXPECTED
The National Retail Federation is predicting that sales in November and December this year will hit $616.9 billion, about 4.1 percent more than last year. If the estimate holds, it would be the first time since 2011 that holiday season sales increased more than 4 percent from the previous year.
The happier holiday shopping season ? November-December sales provides about 19 percent of the retail industry?s annual sales of $3.2 million ? is anticipated because of an improving economy.
Michael Gregory, head of U.S. economics for BMO Capital Markets, said more jobs have been created so far this year than in any comparable period in more than 8 1/2 years. Although wage gains have been sluggish, the strength of the U.S. dollar is driving down the cost of imports. At the same time, Gregory said, gasoline and heating oil costs are the lowest in nearly four years, putting more money in consumer wallets.
HALF DISAPPROVE OF THANKSGIVING SHOPPING
There is no shortage of opinions about the Thanksgiving Day jump-start of Black Friday. This month, the customer loyalty firm LoyaltyOne said its survey found that 50 percent of Americans think all-day shopping on Thanksgiving ? something very few retailers offer right now ? is a bad idea that detracts from the traditional celebration. But 33 percent liked the concept because it provided more time for holiday shopping. Interestingly, half of those ages 18 to 24 thought all-day shopping on Thanksgiving was a great idea.