TUPELO – Forget Black Friday – it’s now Black Thursday.
For many, the traditional day-after-Thanksgiving shopping rush begins on Turkey Day itself, with big-box merchants such as Walmart, Target and Sears starting their doorbusters at 8 p.m.
The Mall at Barnes Crossing is opening at midnight for the first time.
“A couple of years ago, if somebody had said we’d be opening at midnight, I wouldn’t have thought so,” said mall General Manager Jeff Snyder. “But now everybody’s considering opening earlier and earlier.”
Black Friday has traditionally been the kickoff of the holiday shopping season, with stores offering special discounts and promotions. Last year, U.S. retailers pulled in $11.4 billion during the four-day shopping spree from Thanksgiving Day to Sunday, a 6.6 percent increase from 2010.
An estimated 226 million people were out and about during that period, an 11.1 percent increase from a year earlier. Shoppers also spent an average of $398 each, according to BIG-Research, the National Retail Federation and ShopperTrak.
This year, the trend continues for retailers to spread out their deals. While there still are doorbuster and early-bird specials, more stores are putting on promotions throughout the day or weekend.
Michael Brim with bfads.net, one of several websites with sneak peeks of Black Friday ads, said retailers know exactly what they’re doing.
“Walmart, for example, will have multiple sales throughout the day,” Brimm said. “That keeps shoppers in the stores longer. By not putting everything out at once, Walmart is saying, ‘if you missed the first one, there’s a second wave.’”
He added, “If you’re in the store for two hours, chances are you’ll pick up another item that maybe isn’t on sale.”
While extended shopping hours may be good for consumers, that’s not necessarily the case for retail employees.
Shoppers might not mind coming out Thanksgiving Day to spend money, but not everybody wants to work on a day traditionally spent with family and friends.
Target and Walmart employees across the country have signed petitions protesting the stores opening on Thanksgiving Day, and many have threatened to walk off their jobs.
Brimm said he sympathizes with those not wanting to work on Thanksgiving, but it’s the nature of a competitive environment. Consumers expect retailers to open early, and the stores that don’t open early will miss critical sales during the busiest shopping days of the year.
“It comes with the territory,” Brimm said of the earlier store openings. “And the precedent has been set. If they don’t go to work on a holiday, companies will find other people to replace them.”
Snyder, too, said the mall and its merchants simply are responding to consumer trends.
“Last year, we had one store with $25,000 in sales from midnight to 2 a.m.,” he said. “That’s a significant amount that can make the day for you. ... We have to respond to the customers and trends.”
JCPenney is the notable exception this year at the mall. While the mall, the food court and the rest of its retailers open at midnight Thursday, JCPenney stores across the country won’t open until 6 a.m. Friday.
Snyder hopes the extended hours will help relieve some of the congestion. Rather than a rush of customers during one specific time, shoppers can come in waves throughout the day as retailers roll out new specials.
“Now I’m not saying it’s not going to be crowded, because it will be,” he said. “But there will be sales going on throughout the day. Not everybody is going to want a doorbuster item, but there might be something later on sale they want and so they’ll come later.”