Macy's Inc. Monday was the latest retailer to announce its stores will open at midnight on Thanksgiving -- four hours earlier than last year.
Target Corp. revealed last week that it would be offering shoppers a "jump-start" on deals by opening at midnight on Thanksgiving as well.
The day after Thanksgiving, or Black Friday -- so called because it supposedly marks the day retailers swing to a profit for the year, or "move into the black" -- has long been considered the official start to the holiday shopping season. Large retail chains offer limited deals to early shoppers, and customers on a treasure hunt often line up hours ahead of time.
But the combination of a stagnant economy and the growth of online retail has fueled competition and pressured the big merchants to break with traditional shopping hours, said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst for The NPD Group, a Port Washington market research firm. "We are seeing the need for retailers to really make themselves available 24/7 almost 365 days a year, just like online," he said. "The thinking is the early bird is going to catch the worm."
Macy's and Target will keep their doors open on Black Friday for 23 hours straight.
"This year, in response to our customers' eagerness to shop early for great deals, Macy's stores will open for the first time at midnight following Thanksgiving," said Terry Lundgren, Macy's Inc. chief executive.
Every year a few large retailers experiment with their Black Friday start times. The midnight opening has become a tradition in recent years for the Tanger Factory Outlets. Last year Toys "R" Us opened at 10 p.m. Thanksgiving night and stayed open until 10 p.m. Black Friday.
It's not only Black Friday openings getting earlier, Cohen noted. Several years ago retailers kept a tight lid on disclosing Black Friday deals until Thanksgiving. Each year these deals have been leaked a week before the holiday.
But Farmingdale-based P.C. Richard & Son is adamant about Thanksgiving as a family day. The electronics and appliance retailer will open at 6 a.m. and doesn't place a limit on specials, president Gregg Richard said. "You always look at it and say, 'How is this going to affect business,' " he said, "but sometimes our employees and their quality of life is more important than the almighty dollar."