Holiday shoppers are off and buying in stores and online.
In some cases, they already are waiting in lines -- days ahead of time -- to snag bargains at those stores opening Thanksgiving and others in the wee hours of Black Friday.
One such shopper, Tony Avitar, a Black Friday fanatic, has made an annual tradition of camping outside. The 49-year-old Akron man set up his tent Thursday night to ensure he would be the first one in line to get inside when the Best Buy off Howe Avenue in Cuyahoga Falls opens at midnight Thanksgiving night.
Retailers see relatively rosy forecasts for holiday spending and hope to get the biggest piece of the holiday spending that they can, said Paul Albanese, marketing professor at Kent State University, who focuses on consumer behavior.
The National Retail Federation expects holiday sales to increase 4.1 percent from last year. That's a lower rise than last year but above the 10-year average increase. The group said 53 percent of consumers already have begun their holiday shopping.
Shoppers want the earlier hours, Albanese said. "Retailers are simply responding to the demand."
"Black Friday is a big day, and if they can make it an even bigger day by opening earlier and offering even bigger bargains, they can get a bigger piece of the pie," Albanese said. "They're trying to one-up the competition."
Deep discounts on select items -- so-called "door busters" -- will attract customers, and retailers are hoping shoppers pick up other items in the store while they're there.
For retailers, it's a game of one-upsmanship, said Marshal Cohen, chief research analyst at NPD Inc., a market research firm in New York.
Beat the competition
"Retailers are trying to crush the competition, whether it be other stores, beating them to the punch to get the early consumer dollar, or whether to compete with online [shopping sites] that would traditionally have Thanksgiving all to themselves," Cohen said. "It's Christmas crush."
For some retailers, opening on Thanksgiving is nothing new.
Those holiday stores include the Discount Drug Mart Inc. chain, which is based in Medina. The company's 80-plus-year owner, Parviz Boodjeh, a pharmacist, has been known to stop in at one or more stores and offer greetings.
Kmart, which has opened on Thanksgiving for 21 years, is expanding its hours this year to run through Black Friday.
The retailer is trying to appeal to younger shoppers who want to shop later.
"It's kind of a bonding experience for them," she said. "Groups of friends will go out together."
While retail giant Walmart is opening at 8 p.m. Thanksgiving, archrival Target is opening stores at 9 p.m., three hours earlier than last year. Target says this is what its customers want.
Customer feedback shows that "many prefer to shop following their family gatherings rather than in the very early hours of the morning," spokeswoman Molly Snyder said.
Target's move has prompted online petitions against the earlier Thanksgiving hours.
Acme Fresh Markets will be closed on Thanksgiving, as always.
Acme Executive Vice President Jim Trout said that last year he asked the Akron chain's Facebook fans what they thought about Acme being closed on the day.
"It just blew up, he said. "Every one of the fans who wrote back to us -- and it was over 100 -- said absolutely it was the right thing to do. It validated in my mind to close that day."
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