By Quentin Fottrell
Black Friday is creeping closer to Thanksgiving dessert.
Wal-Mart announced Thursday that it’s opening its stores at 10pm on Thanksgiving – a full two hours ahead of retailers such as Macy’s and Target, which made big news last week with plans to open at midnight. That barely leaves enough time to digest the turkey. But as retailers compete for the earliest Black Friday sales the way states have been competing for the earliest presidential primary, it’s hard to say what impact – if any – the change will have on the actual sales.
Wal-Mart says it’s merely listening to customer demand. It’s easier to stay up late than get up early. “Our customers told us they would rather stay up late to shop than get up early, so we’re going to hold special events on Thanksgiving and Black Friday,” Duncan Mac Naughton, chief merchandising officer, Walmart U.S., said in a statement. Whatever the reasons, the earlier stores open this year, the more likely they are to catch the first wave of Black Friday bargain hunters.
It’s the latest salvo in the amazing race to the cash register by shoppers for those big-ticket discounts on high-definition televisions and home entertainment systems. Already, Best Buy, Target, Macy’s and Kohl’s have all said they plan to open their doors at the witching hour on Black Friday this year. But this is no means a first. Last year, several stores had limited sales on Thanksgiving Day, and a few — notably Toys R Us — opened as early as 10 p.m. that night. It has yet to release its opening time this year.
Retailers say they’re only thinking of their customers, but analysts disagree. “We released our Black Friday savings early this year for our customers because we know they are watching every penny this year, and would appreciate being able to plan ahead,” says Wal-Mart spokeswoman Sarah Spencer. But retail analyst Jeff Green says stores have targets to hit, shareholders to please and headlines to make. “Watch for others to follow suit,” he says. “And it’s great for women – they can escape the football on television.”