Black Thursday? Chains Hope To Lure Shoppers
MSNBC.COM - Forget the turkey and the football — if it's Thanksgiving, why aren't you shopping?
U.S. retailers trying to squeeze every extra cent out of shoppers opened for Thanksgiving on Thursday, trying to get a jump on the holiday shopping season.
Among the retailers that opened Thursday are Wal-Mart Stores Inc.'s U.S. discount stores, 850 of Gap Inc.'s Old Navy stores, as well as some of its Gap and Banana Republic stores; Sears Holdings Corp.'s namesake department stores, and Kmart discount stores.
For retailers, opening the stores amount to extra sales at the start of what is expected to be the best holiday shopping season since 2007 — before falling home prices, tight credit and soaring unemployment forced consumers to cut spending. The holiday season is essential for many retailers, who depend on it for a big part of their profits for the year.
But people shopping on Thursday will still only be a fraction of the 138 million the National Retail Federation hopes to see on Black Friday, the next day.
"It's an add-on," Brian Sozzi, an analyst at Wall Street Strategies, said of stores opening on Thanksgiving.
"If one of the retailers that is open on Thanksgiving has a bad day, I don't think it is going to make or break the season."
Stores are aiming to draw in both those splurging a bit and those just getting by.
Deep discounts on high-end cameras, laptops and other gadgets are featured in major retailers' Black Friday ads alongside lower-priced boots, jeans and underwear.
Toys R Us and its Babies R Us chain are again offering discounted diapers for early morning shoppers. But they're also marketing higher-end products. Last year, it had the simple two-passenger swing set for $159.99. This year it's adding a bigger gym set on sale for $349.99, complete with a rock climbing wall.
Retailers had a solid start to November, fueled by early discounting. MasterCard Advisors' SpendingPulse, which tracks spending across all transactions including cash, reported spending increases in clothing (up 9.7 percent), luxury goods excluding jewelry (up 6.7 percent) and jewelry (up 8.1 percent) from Nov. 1 through Nov. 13 compared with a year ago.
Online spending, while just 10 percent of total holiday spending, has surged. More than $9 billion was spent online between Nov. 1 and 21, up 13 percent compared with the same days last year, according to research firm comScore.
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