Retailers' battle for limited holiday dollars has resulted in a new shopping tradition: Rather than a single day of special bargains, offered on Black Friday after Thanksgiving, retailers now proffer deals through Monday.
Retailers plan to offer these aggressive deals online as well as in stores. And the stores will be opening earlier than ever: Many national chains have pushed their Black Friday openings to midnight and earlier on Thanksgiving night.
Last year, 22 million people went to the stores on Thanksgiving Day, more than double the number who shopped a day ahead of Black Friday in 2005, the National Retail Federation said. Retail analysts expect large shopping crowds this year as bargain hunters cope with an uncertain economy.
A Siena Research Institute survey found that, in New York State, 7 percent of shoppers planned to boost their holiday spending, and 34 percent planned to cut back.
Incomes have been squeezed. "Twenty-six percent [of consumers] are making less than they were a year ago -- that's how many people changed jobs, lost jobs or had hours reduced," said Britt Beemer, chief executive of America's Research Group, a Charleston, S.C.-based consulting firm, citing a survey it conducted. Consumers "want deals and deals and deals."
To grow in this struggling economy, retailers must take market share from somebody else, said Michael Dart, a retail strategist based in San Francisco for consulting firm Kurt Salmon. "So deals are coming a little earlier, shops are opening up a little earlier."
To attract bargain hunters, retailers have realized they need to compete across all channels. Malls, from Roosevelt Field to Westfield South Shore to Tanger Outlet centers, have mobile apps to alert customers to their tenants' deals. "Retailers [are] offering consumers the element of convenience because that's what the Internet offered," said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst for The NPD Group in Port Washington.
Black Friday remains key. Retailers like Toys R Us, which is opening at 9 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day, plan to offer the same Black Friday deals online. For customers waiting until Friday to shop, the toy merchant will offer nearly 50 new door-buster deals beginning at 5 a.m.
The Disney Store, which will open more than 150 locations at midnight, also plans to offer the same Black Friday deals online, with more promotions throughout the weekend and Monday.