Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Holiday shopping season begins earlier each year [with Black Friday mall map]
Forget Black Friday. Some retailers are going to be open part or all of Thanksgiving Day.
ERIC BRADY The Roanoke Times
Pat Amoroso (left) and Frank Amoroso shop Monday for their seven grandchildren. The Amorosos planned to be finished with their Christmas shopping before Thanksgiving.
ERIC BRADY The Roanoke Times
Toni Reinhardt (left) and Paola Gaiao shop for Christmas presents for a niece and nephew Monday at Toys R Us. The store is among a growing number of retailers trying to entice shoppers to beat the Black Friday rush by opening at least part of Thanksgiving Day.
Need breakfast at 3 a.m. on Black Friday? Chick-fil-A's drive-through at Valley View will be open.
Want half off Power Wheels? And Nintendo DS and Wii video games for $10? The doors at Toys R Us open at 10 o'clock Thanksgiving night.
Retailers in the Roanoke Valley and across the country are unlocking the doors much earlier this Friday, when people rise before dawn -- or just stay up all night -- to snatch deep discounts on the year's must-have holiday gifts.
Black Friday marks the official start of the holiday shopping season, and a day that retailers once expected to move from the red to the more profitable black, coining the name. The hectic shopping day has turned into an all-night entertainment event in some cities, and is becoming increasingly intense and competitive. The day also accounts for a larger chunk of sales and shopping traffic for the holiday season each year, reports ShopperTrak, a retail research firm.
National chains, such as Sears, began promoting Black Friday Now sales before Halloween, and other retailers, such as Target and Walmart, have followed with mega discounts on televisions, computers and toys throughout November.
Holiday retail sales are forecast to increase slightly, up 2.3 percent this year, according to the National Retail Federation. Still, many consumers remain in deal-finding mode as the aftermath of the recession lingers in households nationwide. For that reason, Black Friday's hype is more important than ever, and retailers realize it, said Ellen Davis, an NRF spokeswoman.
Thanksgiving Day itself joins this holiday shopping rush, and a growing number of retailers are enticing shoppers with sales. Retailers have noticed substantial rises in shopping traffic on their websites on Thanksgiving Day in the past several years, Davis said.
The Roanoke Times
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Last year, 15 percent of people said in a survey commissioned by the NRF that they shopped on Thanksgiving Day. That's up from 14.7 percent in 2008 and 11 percent in 2007.
For the first time, Sears will open its stores nationwide from 7 a.m. to noon Thursday, including locations at Roanoke's Valley View Mall and at the New River Valley Mall in Christiansburg.
Shoppers can get ahead of Friday crowds and have "a nice chunk of time in the morning to do their shopping, before they can celebrate Thanksgiving with their families," Sears spokeswoman Natalie Norris-Howser said.
Gander Mountain stores, including the one in Roanoke County, are expanding Thanksgiving Day hours this year from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Last year, Gander Mountain opened from 3 to 9 p.m. for the holiday.
David Ewald, a spokesman for the Minnesota-based outdoors chain, said the retailer began opening stores on Thanksgiving to accommodate hunters in need of supplies. Even so, "It's more and more becoming a day when people go out and shop," Ewald said.
Hamrick's, a department store in Roanoke County, also will open all day Thanksgiving, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Still, it may be a challenge for retailers to find enough employees to take shifts on Thanksgiving Day, though the down economy with high unemployment could make the task easier this year, Davis said. Some retailers may offer special incentives to employees if they'll work the holiday, she said.
Sarah Dixon of Goodview said she may hit stores on Thanksgiving Day. Dixon, her husband, Kris, and their three daughters will visit family in West Virginia for the holiday. Once they eat the meal, Sarah Dixon said, she may head out to shop with her sister, depending on what stores are open nearby.
Though Thanksgiving Day shopping activity is gradually rising, the number of people who plan to shop on Black Friday weekend is rapidly accelerating. The NRF estimates that 138 million consumers will shop on the day and weekend after Thanksgiving, up from 134 million in 2009.
Black Friday's success is increasingly important to retailers. Last year, it was the largest day for shopping traffic in November and December, followed by the day after Christmas and the Saturday before Dec. 25, ShopperTrak reported. The firm said it expects Black Friday to post the highest daily foot traffic this year as well. Also, retail sales last Black Friday were 6.4 percent of total holiday sales, up from 6.1 percent in 2008 and 5.2 percent in 2007, according to ShopperTrak.
Sarah and Kris Dixon will join the throngs of Black Friday shoppers. The couple said they'll hit the early morning sales while they have family who can baby-sit.
Sarah Dixon admitted that she's rising early to land a free Disney snow globe at J.C. Penney. The department store will give away snow globes when the doors open at 4 a.m., while supplies last.
As for Black Friday in the Roanoke Valley, Toys R Us is the earliest riser this year. The toy chain will open at 10 o'clock Thanksgiving Night to kick off door-buster sales that will continue throughout the day, at different time increments.
"Opening at 10 p.m. on Thursday is designed to accommodate shoppers who want to get a head start on Black Friday ... and help us alleviate crowds throughout the day," said Katelyn DeRogatis, a Toys R Us spokeswoman.
All Valley View Mall stores will open at 5 a.m., an hour earlier than last year, said Louise Dudley, mall manager.
Some Valley View stores plan much earlier risings, including Old Navy and Aeropostale at midnight, and mall entrances near those stores will be open. Department stores, such as Sears, Macy's, J.C. Penney and Belk, will open the doors at 4 a.m.
Dudley said the mall has to compete with neighboring retailers.
Even Roanoke area food retailers are tapping into the morning action. For the first year, Chick-fil-A will open its drive-through on Valley View Boulevard, near Valley View, at 3 a.m. The restaurant will open at 5 a.m.
"We're just trying to catch the traffic into the stores," said general manager Marshall Miller.
Similarly, a Starbucks location, near Chick-fil-A, will open at 3 a.m.
But not everyone cares to wade through Black Friday's crowds for shopping deals. After bad experiences during previous Black Friday shopping trips, Rhonda Kopitzke of Roanoke said she no longer braves the day's heavy traffic and rude shoppers. On a past Black Friday, a shopper snatched an intended clothing purchase straight from Kopitzke's hands.
"People are rude," said Kopitzke, who shopped for gifts for her children at Valley View Mall last week with her mother. "I'd rather pay the extra money than fight for it."