By Nivedita Bhattacharjee
Nov 19 Whether U.S. shoppers and workers like or
loathe the encroachment of the holiday shopping season into
Thanksgiving Day, one thing is for certain - the trend is not
Even as stores fight charges of spreading holiday creep
instead of cheer, retailers are making money out of moving the
start of the holiday shopping season from "Black Friday" -- the
day after Thanksgiving -- into Thanksgiving night, or even the
"Not everybody's going to watch 12 hours of football on
Thanksgiving Day. Most people, after 20 minutes of sitting at
the dinner table, are ready to get out and do something. Why not
cater to the people who are into the sport of shopping?" said
Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst for market research firm
Retailers like Target Corp, Sears Holdings Corp
and Toys R Us Inc have joined Wal-Mart
and Gap Inc in staying open on what is a national
holiday. Traditionally, stores had waited until Black Friday to
make their big push.
There is mounting pressure from Wall Street as well.
"From an investor's standpoint if a retailer is not putting
(in) extra hours while competitors are extending them, it would
make me wonder how much they can participate in the race for the
consumer dollar," said Ken Hemauer, a senior portfolio manager
at Robert W. Baird & Co based in Milwaukee.
Between sales, profits and Wall Street expectations, not
many think petitions like the one on change.org, asking Target
to "save Thanksgiving" by staying shut that day will succeed.
The petition had 355,570 supporters at last count.
And not everyone is complaining. A recent survey by the
consulting firm Deloitte showed 23 percent plan to shop in
stores on Thanksgiving Day - up from 17 percent in last year's
Data on the impact of stores being open on Thanksgiving Day
is hard to come by, but Alison Paul, vice chairman and U.S.
Retail & Distribution lead Deloitte, said it was likely that
sales made that day cut into demand later in the holiday season.
"It shifts spending," she said. "It doesn't create any more
Still, retailers remaining closed on Thanksgiving risk
losing out to competitors in the a battle for consumer dollars
as the overall spending pie is expected to grow less than last
"The upside is not huge, but the downside could be," Paul
Industry watchdog National Retail Federation expects holiday
sales this year to rise 4.1 percent to $586.1 billion, lower
than the 5.6 percent rise in 2011.
A handful of chains like Best Buy Co, Macy's
and Kohl's plan to wait to open at midnight on Black
Friday, but they are notable for waiting.
"Most retailers have customers lining up in front of their
stores for hours anyway (early on Black Friday or even very late
in the night on Thanksgiving)," said Dan Butler, vice president,
Merchandising and Retail Operations at the National Retail
Federation. "If they are going to be there, they might as well
be inside. It is silly to have your customers outside in cold,
DOORBUSTERS AND DOLLARS
In an economy that is blowing hot and cold, "doorbuster"
deals and other discounts are the best bet stores have to hook
"You're essentially increasing traffic. If you have some
merchandise significantly marked down and can get people in
through the door, there is a whole range of other products that
they'll buy at your location," said Nick Jones, executive vice
president, Retail Practice Lead at advertising agency Leo
Jim Brownell, vice president Retail Industry Solutions for
sourcing company GT Nexus said retailers were using the extra
hours of sales to keep up the frenzy as the chase the dollars.
"The retailers are generating it (demand), the consumers
aren't demanding it," said Brownell, who had worked with
retailers like Williams-Sonoma Inc, Restoration Hardware
"Retail is not growing very much, so we're not seeing much
more money coming in in the season. It is really who's getting a
bigger portion of the sales pie."
The trouble is, items on sale are low margin, so they do not
bring in a lot of money unless volumes are high.
"Everybody's worried that the price sensitive customers will
go to whoever's open first. They are worried about being late to
the game," Eric Anderson, Hartmarx Professor of Marketing at
Kellogg School of Management.
NRF's Butler said the number of shoppers ensures that
retailers make a profit on that day.
"It is a profitable time for retailers. When they price
their goods, even when they are on sales, they price them for
profitability," he said.