* Competition fiercest for lower price retailers-analysts
* Ross Stores CEO: holiday 'more competitive than usual'
By Phil Wahba
Nov 17 Thanksgiving Day is for eating turkey,
watching football and, apparently, shopping at lower-end
While much has been made in the media about retailers
opening their doors at midnight to grab their share from
shoppers' wallets, several retailers that cater to people with
the tightest budgets will be open all day.
Sears Holdings is keeping its discount K-Mart
stores open on Thanksgiving for the 20th year, waiting until
Black Friday, the following day that officially kicks off
holiday shopping, to welcome people into its namesake chain.
Wal-Mart Stores Inc is also open on Thanksgiving,
as are most of Gap Inc's Old Navy locations.
Executives and analysts alike have said the fight for
shopper dollars is more intense this year in a tough job market
and uncertain economy. The National Retail Federation expects
retail sales to up 2.8 percent this season, below last year's
5.2 percent clip.
Chains that cater to shoppers on the tightest budget stand
to lose the most, analysts said.
"They want to make sure they are getting consumer dollars
before anyone else," said Kurt Salmon retail strategist Megan
Donadio. "Retailers want to do whatever they can to make sure
what consumers do spend is spent with them."
Low-price retailer Ross Stores Inc's CEO Michael
Balmuth said on Thursday that he was not raising his chain's
holiday sales outlook because of the possibility of "more
competitive than usual holiday season."
How high the stakes are for low-cost chains is made clear
by the varying strategies retailers take for different chains
within their portfolios.
Gap will only welcome shoppers at some Gap and Banana
Republic stores, and Sears decided this year to revert to its
usual 4 a.m. opening on Black Friday after finding limited
interest last year in its Thanksgiving hours as shoppers stayed
home and shopped online instead.
Still, even middlebrow chains like Macy's Inc , Kohl's
Corp and discounter Target Corp have felt the
pressure, opening earlier than ever by kicking off their Black
Friday sales at the stroke of midnight.
One holdout is J.C. Penney Co Inc , which is
sticking to its guns and opening at 4 a.m. on Black Friday. But
Kohl's CEO Kevin Mansell told Reuters last week that it would
have been the "wrong" approach for his chain, considering
rivals like Macy's and Target will be open for business.
At the other end of the spectrum, high-end retailers have
felt no pressure to change store hours. Most of Macy's
Bloomingdale's stores are again opening at 8 a.m. on Black
Friday, while Nordstrom Inc and Saks Inc stores
are also largely sticking to last year's schedule.
Still, Nordstrom-owned daily deals site Haute Look found
high end shoppers started looking for deals and buying earlier
this year, its CEO Adam Bernard told Reuters on Thursday.
The competition remains most intense for shoppers of the
most modest means. Target on Wednesday said Wal-Mart's layaway
program, revived this year after a five-year hiatus, was
hurting its toy sales.
"They want to get the best deal, get the most merchandise
at the best price, to take advantage of that frenzy. So they
are going to get up earlier, stay up late or do whatever it
takes," said Janet Hoffman, managing director of Accenture's