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Could Early Black Friday Boost Deals?

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Stores are betting night owls are bigger spenders than early birds by moving the kickoff of Black Friday to midnight on Thanksgiving. A blackened Turkey Day could bring in more customers — and mean more competitive deals, experts say.

Best Buy, Target, Macy’s and Kohl’s have all said they plan to open their doors at midnight on Black Friday this year. Last year, several stores were open for limited hours on Thanksgiving Day, and a few — notably Toys R Us — opened as early as 10 p.m. that night. Many stores haven’t yet announced their hours, which means that trend could continue this year, analysts say.

Stores edging toward earlier opening will need to stay competitive on door-busters because shoppers can’t wait in multiple lines at once, points out Michelle Madhok, founder of sale-tracking site SheFinds.com. Those opening later will need to be just as deal-heavy, to give shoppers good reason to pull an all-nighter.

But even though Black Friday typically has some of the best prices, the creep of earlier openings make it less necessary to actually go to the stores, says Kit Yarrow, a professor of psychology and marketing at Golden Gate University in San Francisco. Many retailers already start their online Black Friday promotions at midnight, offering some of the same deals they do in stores. Retailers have also pushed Black Friday into almost a full week of sales, which provides bargain-hunting shoppers with plenty of other good sales if they’d rather shop with fewer crowds than save an extra 10%.

Stores are hoping that shifting to earlier openings could prompt shoppers to venture out in what’s otherwise expected to be a lackluster year. The National Retail Federation expects total retail spending to rise just 2.8% through December — less than the 5.2% spike in spending last year. And only 18% of consumers say they plan to shop Black Friday, down from 27% last year.

“The variety of sales timing means more people will take advantage of Black Friday deals,” says Yarrow. There’s appeal for both night owls and early birds, and waiting in line during the early evening is ultimately more appealing than an overnight wait or hearing the alarm go off at 2 a.m.

With additional reporting by Quentin Fottrell.

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