* Wal-Mart "Black Friday" deals at 8 p.m., Target open at 9
* NRF sees holiday sales up 4.1 pct, down from 2011 increase
* Waiting in tents at Best Buy in Florida, but some just
By Martinne Geller and Phil Wahba
NEW YORK, Nov 22 U.S. shoppers took advantage of
retailers offering a Thursday night start to the traditional
post-Thanksgiving holiday shopping season, lining up at stores
to get deals on electronics and other items or to just see what
the fuss was about.
"I like watching the insanity, honestly," Jon Stroker, 40,
of Littleton, New Hampshire, said after spending about $280 at a
Walmart store in town and taking advantage of the retailer's 8
p.m. Thursday start of "Black Friday" deals.
This year, Target Corp joined Wal-Mart Stores Inc
and Gap Inc in being open at least part of the
day on Thursday and some retailers will be open throughout the
day, a trend that began to take hold in 2011.
Wal-Mart's U.S. discount stores, which have been open on
Thanksgiving Day since 1988, offered some "Black Friday" deals
at 8 p.m. local time and special deals on some electronics at 10
p.m. Target has moved its opening from midnight to 9 p.m. on
Thursday and Toys R Us is opening at 8 p.m.
"It's a recognition that retailers need to be more
aggressive and want to show their physical stores are
important," Moody's senior analyst Charles O'Shea said.
While he didn't see enormous crowds out in Vauxhall, New
Jersey, he did see about 15 people lined up already at a Best
Buy, which opens at midnight. At a Target in Westbury, only two
shoppers were in line for a 9 p.m. opening. Still, for
retailers, any crowd could make the effort worth it.
"It's a finite pie; if you can get a bit more by being open,
then do it," O'Shea said.
The National Retail Federation, an industry trade group,
forecast a 4.1 percent increase in retail sales during the
November-December holiday period this year, down from the 5.6
percent increase seen in 2011.
In a separate survey, NRF said 147 million people would shop
Friday through Sunday, down from 152 million on Black Friday
weekend last year. The survey did not say how many shoppers
planned to hit stores on Thursday.
Some retailers, like Best Buy Co Inc are keeping
Black Friday on Friday, waiting until midnight to open.
At a Best Buy in Orlando, people had camped out in tents for
days waiting for the doors to open.
Gabriel Esteves, 33, a self-employed car audio installer,
waited in line with a bag of Cheetos and a Coke while his
brother and sister went to their homes for Thanksgiving feasts
with their families.
"They told me to take a break and go to the house, but
today's the worst day to leave the line. People come and cut in
line," said Esteves, who got in line Monday to buy some small
electronics and a 50-inch television.
Best Buy, which is trying to stem falling sales under new
CEO Hubert Joly, is one of the retailers in the spotlight this
At some stores, workers were not so happy to have early
openings encroach on their Thanksgiving holiday. A petition
asking Target to "save Thanksgiving" had 371,606 supporters as
of Thursday afternoon.
Some shoppers agreed.
"I don't think it's good," Carol Lucas, 61, of Sugar Hill,
N.H., said while her husband waited for a 32-inch television on
sale at Walmart. "You're messing up Thanksgiving."
Still, at a Target on Chicago's Northwest Side, the first
person waiting in line Thursday night was someone who worked at
the store, Elsa Acevedo, 46, who finished her shift at 4:30 a.m.
and lined up at about 2:30 p.m. to buy a 50-inch Westinghouse
As for the earlier opening, "I just think it takes people
away from their families," she said. But she added that a
midnight opening also pulled workers away from Thanksgiving
celebrations because they had to prepare the stores to open.
Many shoppers lured into stores by earlier openings on
Thursday may just be window-shopping.
More than 50 percent of consumers will do some form of
"show-rooming" during the Black Friday weekend, said Kevin
Sterneckert, vice president of retail research at Gartner Group.
"They will buy things because they looked at it in the
store. They will touch and feel what they are interested in and
then buy it online on Monday, either from the same retailer or a
different online retailer," Sterneckert said.
At a Kmart on 34th Street in Manhattan earlier on Thursday,
Charles Montague, a 55-year-old mover, was browsing the aisles
just to kill time.
"I don't holiday shop," he said emphatically. "I buy stuff
all year long, not during some man-made holiday."
Some were not waiting for Monday to buy on the Internet.
Online Thanksgiving 2012 sales were already up 17.8 percent over
Thanksgiving 2011 for the same period, measured through 9 p.m.
EST, according to IBM.
THE RESULTS MATTER
The stakes are high for U.S. retailers, which can earn more
than a third of their annual sales in the holiday season.
Consumers heading into the holiday shopping season remain
worried about high unemployment and possible tax increases and
government spending cuts in 2013. Also, lasting effects of
Sandy, the storm that lashed the densely populated East Coast in
late October, could cut into how much shoppers can spend on the
According to a Reuters/Ipsos poll, two-thirds of shoppers
said they were planning to spend the same amount as last year or
were unsure about spending plans, while 21 percent intend to
spend less and 11 percent plan to spend more.
"My family decided not to buy (Chanukah) presents this year
- only for the kids. It's too expensive," said graduate student
Danielle Slade, 29, from Jericho, Long Island.
Still, the Standard & Poor's retail index is up
almost 27 percent this year, compared with a 10.6 percent
increase for the broader S&P 500.
In New York's Times Square, a mix of locals and tourists
lined up at Toys R Us.
"We just want to see what's happening," said a man who
arrived Thursday from Paris. "We want to see what Black Friday
is." A Santa hat-wearing expeditor quickly whisked him and his
companion away before they could give their names.
For more Reuters holiday coverage: