Nov. 18--Not content with depriving Black Friday shoppers of their sleep, more retailers will extract an additional price from seekers of Black Friday bargains this week -- family harmony.
Feeling pressure to match the day-long competitive advantage enjoyed by Walmart, Kmart, and Meijer, who remain open on much of Thanksgiving, two major retailers have opted this year to open their doors on Thursday evening in hopes of nabbing a bigger share of Black Friday sales.
Sears and Target will join the Thanksgiving Day shopping fray by opening at 8 p.m. and 9 p.m., respectively, on Turkey Day to offer consumers their list of "doorbuster" sale items. Last year, the two retailers opened at midnight.
Toys R Us will open at 8 p.m., an hour earlier than last year.
Experts say those moves may force even more shoppers to choose between a traditional evening of turkey and football, or kicking Uncle Ted and Aunt Edna out the door early in order to get out and snag a bargain-priced flat-screen TV or microwave oven.
And "Thanksgiving creep" -- the continual rollback of store sale starting times -- will start even before Thursday this year.
Kohl's is beginning its Black Friday sales at 12:01 a.m. on Wednesday on its Web site.
Sears' sales start even earlier: customers who sign up online for Sears' free "Shop Your Way" loyalty program will be able to purchase the retailer's Black Friday "doorbuster" sale items today and Monday on the Sears Web site.
Meanwhile, other major retailers are continuing the Thanksgiving night frenzy with midnight openings. Macy's, Best Buy, Kohl's, and Elder-Beerman again plan to open at 12:01 a.m. Friday. At Westfield Franklin Park, the area's premier mall, more than half the mall's 100-plus retailers plan to open at midnight with the mall opening its doors at 11 p.m. Thursday.
J.C. Penney, on the other hand, is reverting to a 6 a.m. Friday start after opening at 4 a.m. the last several years.
"There's no question that Black Friday is changing, but it's not dead," said Kathy Grannis, a spokesman for the National Retail Federation. "It's just that Thanksgiving night shopping is becoming more relevant for shoppers. It's a great way to get all of the deals that retailers are offering, and even sleep in on Friday morning."
And if consumers don't want to face crowds at their favorite stores on Thursday and Friday, many more retailers are expanding their online shopping this year. Also, for those who do go out to shop from Thursday through Sunday, more mobile phone technology is being used to make the shopping experience richer and easier.
"I think this holiday season, maybe for the first time, the integrated shopping experience is very visible," Ms. Grannis said. "Kohl's will have QR codes on shelves to let customers purchase select items on their mobile phones and have them shipped directly to their house," she said.
"Macy's will have special deals available only on their mobile app. You have to have their app to see their offers," Ms. Grannis said. "With Toys R Us you can order something online and pay at your store."
Sears has outfitted its store sales force with electronic tablets that can ring up sales on the spot so that a customer could purchase an item anywhere in the store and not have to wait in a check-out line. A receipt can be printed out for the item or sent to the customer e-mail.
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