Millions of bargain-hungry shoppers are set to scour shops for deals on Thanksgiving as an increasing number of stores across the country throw open their doors a day early.
Some of the nation’s largest chains, including Toys R Us and Target, have nudged their opening times into Thursday in a bid to make more money than ever over the Black Friday weekend.
“Retailers are now commercializing Thanksgiving, giving the opportunity to the consumer who doesn’t want to watch 12 hours of football,” said Marshal Cohen from consumer research firm NPD Group.
“It’s no longer Christmas creep, it’s the Christmas crush. This is about beating the competition.”
Across the US, a staggering 17% of consumers – or 41 million people – are expected to shop on Thanksgiving, according to a consumer holiday tracking survey by The International Council of Shopping Centers and Goldman Sachs.
And for retailers, it makes sense. Last year, stores which extended their hours saw sales soar by up to 22% over the weekend, while those retailers that did not lost up to 8%.
The National Retail Federation predicts 147 million Americans will shop over Thanksgiving weekend, and that there will be an increase of holiday sales of 4.1% on last year.
Already queues are snaking outside large stores. Tents began gathering outside Best Buy stores on Tuesday as bargain hunters hoped to get their hands on gadgets when doors open on Friday.
Stores are enticing shoppers with discounts including $7 board games at Target, $19 sweaters at Gap and $299 Toshiba 50-inch LEDs at Sears – down from $849.
Aware that many customers plan to shop online, Target and Best Buy are also matching prices offered by online competitors such as Amazon.com, Bloomberg reported.
And in some stores, there will be kiosks and mobile checkouts to integrate online and in-store shopping, while Apple customers can simply scan their products and pay remotely.
Independent stores and entire malls nationwide are also opening early. In South Florida, for example, Dolphin Mall in Sweetwater and Sawgrass Mills in Sunrise each open at 9 p.m. on Thursday for 24 hours.
With stores opening earlier, the retail industry has crossed the Black Friday barrier and it might creep further forward still, Kimberly Taylor, an associate professor from Florida International University, told the Miami Herald.
“It is becoming almost a whole season,” she said.
“Where is it going to end? Will it take away the whole Black Friday if it is the whole week or the whole season?”
There will also be early sales online as discounts are offered ahead of the internet’s equivalent of Black Friday – Cyber Monday.
The deals are expected to boost sales made on Thanksgiving last year, when online spending rose 18% to $479 million. On Black Friday, sales soared 26% to $816 million.
But not all employees are happy about the changes, with some workers signing petitions at change.org demanding stores including Target and Walmart stay closed on Thursday.
One petition started by a Target employee, Casey St Clair, was entitled “Target: Take the High Road and Save Thanksgiving” and had gathered almost 400,000 supporters.
But in response, Target told the Orange County Register that other workers were happy to have the overtime hours.
“When we made the decision to open our doors at 9 p.m. on Thanksgiving, the first thing we did was reach out to all of our store leaders and ask them to have discussions with their team members and seek volunteers wanting to work,” Tina Schiel, executive vice president of stores for Target, said.
“We had so many team members who wanted to work on Thursday that hundreds of our stores are now keeping lists of volunteers who want to work if shifts open up.”