As some Kansas Citians were still sleeping off their Thanksgiving dinner, others were out in the predawn hours this morning to score some of the best deals of the season.
More than a dozen major retailers from Wal-Mart to Target to Toys “R” Us opened on Thanksgiving Day and planned to stay open through Black Friday, the traditional start to the holiday shopping season. As a result, crowds formed early and often throughout the two days. Some consumers planned to shop in shifts, starting on Thanksgiving then going home for a few hours of shut-eye and then heading back out in the predawn hours for “doorbuster” deals at the big discounters.
Thanksgiving Day shopping may seem too early for some folks. But take another look at the calendar. There are six fewer shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year than last.
The holiday shopping season is transforming right before shoppers’ eyes. For nearly a decade, Black Friday had been the official start to the busy buying binge sandwiched between Thanksgiving and Christmas. It was named Black Friday because that was traditionally when retailers turned a profit, or moved out of the red and into the black.
But in the past few years, retailers have pushed opening times into Thanksgiving night. Some like Macy’s and J.C. Penney opened on Thanksgiving for the first time this year. Others like Gap Inc., which owns Banana Republic, Gap and Old Navy, opened some stores earlier on Thanksgiving than the year before. And many pushed up the discounting that used to be reserved for Black Friday into early November.
At Toys “R” Us in Overland Park, a line stretched around the building for the 5 p.m. Thanksgiving Day opening and by 5:30 p.m. a checkout line of full carts snaked to the back of the store. The store will stay open until 10 p.m. Friday night.
The earlier openings and sales were met with some resistance. Some workers’ rights groups had planned protests on both Thanksgiving and Black Friday because they opposed having retail employees miss family meals at home. And some shoppers had said they would not venture out on Thanksgiving because they believe it’s a sacred holiday meant to spend with family and friends.
But that didn’t stop others from taking advantage of the earlier openings and sales. In fact, some retail experts question how much further Black Friday will creep into Thanksgiving. Some now even refer to the holiday as Black Thanksgiving or GrayThursday and question whether the earlier openings will make people shop more over the two days or simply push up sales from Black Friday.
“Black Friday is now Gray Friday,” said Craig Johnson, president of Customer Growth Partners, a retail consultancy.
The Thanksgiving openings took a bite out of Black Friday sales last year. Sales on turkey day were $810 million last year, an increase of 55 percent from the previous year as more stores opened on the holiday, according to Chicago research firm ShopperTrak. But sales dropped 1.8 percent to $11.2 billion on Black Friday, though it still was the biggest shopping day last year.
This year, sales figures for Thanksgiving and Black Friday will trickle out in the next couple days. Meanwhile, one thing is clear: Shoppers across the country were taking advantage of the deals on both days.